Guarding Against Business Identity Theft

Guarding Against Business Identity Theft

Individuals aren’t the only targets for identity theft. Corporate, also known as commercial identity theft, saw a 46% increase last year according to the National Cybersecurity Society (NCSS). Although businesses of all sizes are at risk, small businesses are particularly vulnerable. “Small business identity theft—stealing a business’ identity to commit fraud—is big business for identity thieves,” remarks Mary Ellen Seale, CEO of NCSS.

 

She explains, “Unlike larger corporations, small businesses don’t always have the required security controls in place to detect and deter fraudulent activity, which can make them easier targets. There is also a general unawareness, among large and small businesses alike, of the magnitude of the threat and the devastating effects that business identity theft can have.”

 

Stealing an organization’s identity takes a lot less work than one might think. State laws require the public disclosure of proprietary business information in annual reports, names and addresses of key company personnel as well as the employee identification number (EIN). All of this information can be used by thieves to apply for a line of credit or loan as well as intercept business credit card information.

 

What can business owners do to help mitigate their risk?

 

– Educate your employees about phishing scams. Phishers aren’t just targeting your business … they are grabbing your customers, employees, partners and vendors. Make sure your employees know what red flags to look for when they receive an email that is asking for an action from them. Examples include bad grammar, misspelled words, links to unfamiliar websites and attachments.

 

– Don’t post sensitive company information on your website.

 

– Stay on top of computer security updates.

 

– Check your credit reports regularly.

 

– Follow the IRS new procedures to protect businesses. Visit https://www.irs.gov/individuals/identity-theft-guide-for-business-partnerships-and-estate-and-trusts for detailed information.

 

– File your company’s annual report on time and regularly check the secretary of state’s website. Keep in mind that if you operate your business in more than one state, each state may have their own due date.

 

Unfortunately, identity theft is here to stay. With the number of incidents growing each year, and financial losses piling up, it’s more important than ever for businesses to be vigilant. Do you have an anti-phishing plan for your business? Please contact us if you need assistance developing one or educating your employees about the topic.

 

Be vigilant. Be strong. Stay in the know. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact our Member Services immediately. We are always available for you 24/7/365 at 888.966.4827 (GUARD).

 

Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Unsplash

How to Spot a Hacker Going After Your Business

How to Spot a Hacker Going After Your Business

When you think of a “bad guy,” what comes to mind? Someone sitting alone hunched over a keyboard in a dark hoody in a dark basement with fast typing fingers and maybe sporting a three-day-old beard? And what do you picture this anti-social “bad guy” doing? Are they only going after huge corporations and corrupt politicians? Nope! But that is what pop society has been assuming cybercrime is and that the everyday individual or smaller organizations aren’t being targeted.

 

The reality is that many of the faces of modern cybercrime don’t look like what we have read in fictional books and seen on tv and in the movies. These cybercriminals are much harder to spot because “they look a lot like legitimate businesses than you might expect,” Hubspot reported. “The work they might do day-to-day to steal personal information and disrupt businesses is pretty boring.”

 

So why do they hack? Money! Cybercrime has cost the world just under a trillion dollars in 2020.

 

The fact is that your Personal Identifying Information (PPI) is just like a currency. When stolen and aggregated, PPI can be sold for a hefty profit and “it’s a lot easier to try to get into your business’s data than to try to gather their own to sell.” Many websites sell aggregated collections of email addresses and passwords that have been gathered from past data breaches. From there, all it takes is a bit of unsophisticated scripting to use these emails and passwords to try to log into different websites across the internet.

 

“These folks aren’t looking to hit the biggest, most valuable businesses. It’s a case of quantity over quality.” These villains take a few thousand emails and passwords and see how many of them work out against high value services (such as email providers or CRMs) to see what data can be pulled out of those accounts to sell or how they can use those accounts for phishing emails or ransomware.

 

Look at the statement released by Darkside, the group whose ransomware attack brought down the Colonial Oil Pipeline and caused gas prices to spike in May this year. They released: “We are apolitical, we do not participate in geopolitics, do not need to tie use with a defined government and look for other motives. Our goal is to make money and not creating problems for society.” They want cash flow not world domination.

 

Hubspot reported in a blog last month written by Ryan DiPetta, “A lot of hackers look and behave like legitimate businesses, even if they do illegitimate things. Maybe they work a regular nine to five schedule. Maybe they take vacations with their kids. They’re trying to build a business just like you, too … but their business is built on theft and exploitation of your business and the data and trust of your customers.”

 

Are you and your employees protected? For more information on how to protect your company’s bottom line and employees by providing this must-have voluntary benefit, please click HERE.

 

Our team at Guard Well Identity Theft Solutions is available 24/7/365. Contact us at 888.966.GUARD (4827) or email memberservices@guardwellid.com if you suspect fraud or have any concerns. We are here to help!

 

Photo credit: Markus Spiske via Unsplash.com

The Steps We Take to Protect Your Identity

The Steps We Take to Protect Your Identity

Identity theft is inevitable. If it hasn’t already, it will victimize you, a family member, or an employee’s life in the near future. ‘Data Harvesting’ has become a major threat to identity protection. Browsing history, online shopping, and messaging data is being used against you.

 

The statistics are overwhelming. Cyber attacks, malware, and phishing scams have increased over 1000% since Covid-19 began. There are 3.5M Google searches every minute and 4.4B Facebook messages each day … all of that information is collected, stored, and sold. Essentially, your data is being stolen then sold back to you.

 

As a leader in the identity protection space, we are advocating for laws to protect the American consumer from Data Harvesting. Additionally, of the 8.5 billion IP addresses worldwide, 3.5 billion of them are malware. It is our hope that stronger IT security efforts are implemented in America (and worldwide) to block the thieves from stealing your information.

 

Protecting identity includes five main steps:

 

1. Implementing proactive safeguards with Guard Well fraud specialists.

2. Protecting personal identifying information (PII), such as social security number, date of birth, driver’s license ID number, financial institution account numbers, passport number, IP addresses, passwords, etc. Remember that even the smallest amount of stolen PII can be used against you.

3. Browsing in incognito or private mode, deleting unused email accounts, using two-factor authentication whenever possible, changing your passwords every 60 days, and removing your information from ‘people finder’ sites.

4. Monitoring credit and identity to quickly detect theft/fraud when it occurs.

5. Resolving all theft/fraud issues completely and continuously monitoring for recurrence.

 

Finally … we always strongly recommend that you DO NOT CLICK on any online link that you are not 100% certain is safe, secure and legit.

 

For more information on how to protect your employees by providing this must-have voluntary benefit, please click on the flyer: GW_Flyer_070821_OnePageMktgPiece

 

Our team at Guard Well Identity Theft Solutions is available 24/7/365. Contact us at 888.966.GUARD (4827) or email memberservices@guardwellid.com if you suspect fraud or have any concerns.

Guard Well Introduces Three Bureau Credit Report & Score Center

Guard Well Introduces Three Bureau Credit Report & Score Center

Now more than ever, having the right identity theft protection in place is critical. “Cyberattacks, especially phishing scams, are on the rise and that means that identity theft rates are increasing as well,” remarks E. Allan Hilsinger, Founder and CEO of Guard Well Identity Theft Solutions. “Although identity theft is not preventable, it is key to be proactive and identify issues swiftly. This is why we developed the Guard Well Credit Report and Score Center.”

 

In order to assist Guard Well Members and the general public in being cyber smart, Guard Well’s new ‘a la carte’ feature will help save time and identify issues before they could potentially turn into huge problems.

 

To obtain your three-bureau credit reports and score, please visit the Guard Well website and click on the red button in the upper right-hand corner that says Get My Credit Report and Score. Or, visit www.guardwellcredit.com to view your reports and scores within seconds.

 

 

You do not have to be a Guard Well member to utilize this special feature. For a one-time fee of $19.95, you have access to all of your credit reports and scores within seconds. The process is clearly explained with easy to understand instructions to walk you through the activity quickly.

 

First, you will enter your personal information and then agree to Terms and Conditions. Then you will verify your identity by accurately answering the questions provided. On the next page, you will enter your credit/debit card payment information. Once submitted, all three credit bureau reports and scores (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion) will appear in seconds for you to review and print.

 

After you complete this process, reach out to us immediately if you notice anything unusual in your reports. Be smart. Be vigilant. Be strong. We are always available 24/7/365 if you ever have any questions or concerns. Call us at 888.966.GUARD (4827) or email memberservices@guardwellid.com.

 

Photo credit: Photo by Dylan Gillis via Unsplash.com.

 

 

 

 

Working from Home Cybersecurity Tips

Working from Home Cybersecurity Tips

Coronavirus has forced millions of Americans to work remotely from their homes. Although working from home helps with social (physical) distancing by preventing the spread of COVID-19, there are many new challenges that have come with teleworking. For example, many states have closed schools for weeks, and for some, the entire rest of the school year. Parents may be juggling work while their children are learning remotely. You may find yourself becoming an expert with practicing mindfulness along with new software and conferencing programs, such as Zoom and GoToMeetings (or if you aren’t, your children blessedly are).

 

As we are being forced to slow down the pace of everyday life, we recognize that a lot of good can come out of this time. But, on the other side of the coin, there is the growing opportunity for cybercriminals to trick us into forking over passwords during this learning transitional period. Reuters reported last week that “some researchers have found hackers masquerading as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in a bid to break into emails or swindle users out of bitcoin, while others have spotted hackers using a malicious virus-themed app to hijack Android phones.” Our blogs last week provided some details on these new scams.

 

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has some tips to help protect your devices and personal information while working from home:

Start with cybersecurity basics. Keep your security software up-to-date. Use passwords on all your devices and apps. Make sure the passwords are long, strong and unique. The FTC suggests using at least 12 characters that are a mix of numbers, symbols and capital and lowercase letters.

Secure your home network by starting with your router. Turn on encryption (WPA2 or WPA3), which scrambles information sent over your network so outsiders can’t read it. If no WPA2 or WPA3 options are available with your current router, considering replacing your router altogether.

Keep an eye on your laptop and make sure it is password-protected, locked when you aren’t using it and secure. We suggest that it is never unattended, such as out in plain sight in a vehicle. Even if your doors are locked, windows can easily be broken.

Securely store your physical files. Strong physical security is an important part of cybersecurity. If you don’t have a file cabinet at home that is lockable, consider using a locked room. Read this blog by the FTC to learn more tips about physical security.

Dispose of sensitive data securely. Invest in a shredder if you don’t already have one. Throwing paperwork you no longer need in the garbage or recycling bin can be a treasure for a pirate especially if it includes personal information about customers, vendors or employees.

Follow your employer’s security practices. Since your home is now an extension of your office, make sure that you understand the protocols that your employer has implemented.

 

Be smart. Be vigilant. Be strong. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you need help. We are available 24/7/365 for you and your family members at 888,966.GUARD (4827) and memberservices@guardwellid.com.

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Coronavirus Scams are on the Rise

Coronavirus Scams are on the Rise

COVID-19 is a breeding ground for scams. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has alerted consumers that scammers are taking advantage of the panic and fear surrounding the global pandemic. “They’re setting up websites to sell bogus products, and using fake emails, texts, and social media posts as a ruse to take your money and get your personal information,” remarked Colleen Tressler, Consumer Education Specialist, FTC. There are also malicious apps being developed, one of which is an Android tracker app that supposedly allows users to keep an eye on the spread of the virus, but locks victims’ phone and demands money to unlock it.

 

Phishing scams may come across as emails and/or posts promoting coronavirus awareness. These messages will often offer prevention tips on how to stay well, what the symptoms of the virus may include and what to do in case you or a family member feel ill. Some are creating fake “cases” of COVID-19 in your neighborhood so you feel more inclined to help out. “They also may be asking you to donate to victims, offering advice on unproven treatments, or contain malicious email attachments.” Don’t fall for it.

 

Here are some tips to help you keep the scammers at bay:

– Do not click on any links from sources you do not know. Doing so could download a virus on your equipment.

– Be on the lookout for phishing emails that appear to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC will not email you. The World Health Organization (WHO) will not email you either.

– Ignore offers for vaccinations. Many ads exist touting prevention, treatment, and cure claims. They are not legitimate.

– Do not donate cash, purchase gift cards, or wire money without investigating the request in full. See the FTC’s article “How to Donate Wisely and Avoid Charity Scams” for more information.

– The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is warning about false “investment opportunities.” Be aware of online promotions, including on social media, claiming that the products or services of publicly-traded companies can prevent, detect, or cure coronavirus and that the stock of these companies will dramatically increase in value as a result.

 

Be smart. Be vigilant. Be strong. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you need help. We are available 24/7/365 for you and your family members at 1.888.966.GUARD (4827) and memberservices@guardwellid.com.

Scams, Scams and More Darn Scams

Scams, Scams and More Darn Scams

Did you know that there are at least 48 different types of identity theft and the number of scams involved in each is growing daily? Romance scams, residence scams, utility scams, employment scams, telephone scams, email scams, charity scams, Apple care scams, AirBNB scams, PayPal scams, census scams, ticket scams, government scams, medical scams, insurance scams, real estate scams, investment scams, lottery and sweepstakes scams … there really isn’t one facet of our lives that isn’t ‘scam-able.’ As the weather turns colder, it kind of makes you want to curl up under an electric blanket and hibernate for a bit doesn’t it!

 

Although everyone with a social security number is at risk for identity theft, there are two groups that are targeted more often: children and seniors. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services has studied why. They explain, “Children are targeted to establish a ‘clean slate.’ Seniors are targeted over the telephone and through phishing scams. Some studies suggest that people become more trusting as they age, which helps to explain why it’s more difficult for older adults to detect fraudsters.”

 

The next high-risk group that follows children and seniors are the military mostly due to deployment, which impacts their ability to respond to a threat in a timely manner. According to the Federal Trade Commission, military consumers are most affected by credit card and bank fraud. Another high-risk group is identity theft repeat victims. As reported in Consumer Affairs, “people who have previously been affected by identity theft are at a greater risk for future identity theft and fraud.” According to the Center for Victim Research, “7-10% of the U.S. population are victims of identity fraud each year and 21% of those experience multiple incidents of identity theft.”

 

Lastly, the deceased are targeted. Stealing a dead person’s identity, commonly known as “ghosting,” will often go unnoticed by surviving family for months or years. A report dating from 2012 stated that 2.5 million deceased American identities are stolen each year. Of those 2.5 million stolen identities, 800,000 were used to open lines of credit or get a mobile phone plan.

 

Fraudsters oftentimes repeat their favorite most lucrative scams, which are driven by major financial life moments, such as taxes and holiday shopping. Yes, it’s getting to be that time of year, and, guess what … the world’s largest online retailer, Amazon, is seeing a huge increase in fake Amazon.com order cancellation scams. If you receive an email about an order cancellation from Amazon, there’s a good chance it’s a scam. Click on links in the email and you could unintentionally download malware onto your device. Or you might be sent to a site that aims to collect your Amazon account information, like your username and password. If you receive such an email and recently placed an order, go to Amazon.com directly to check your order status.

 

Most of our blogs offer tips to help protect yourself and your family from identity theft. There is one tip in this blog: Remain aware of scams and that they can touch every facet of your life. By staying in-the-know, you can help every month be National Cybersecurity Awareness month … not just October.

 

If you suspect that you or a loved one has suffered identity theft, please reach out to us as soon as possible. Our Guard Well member services team is available around the clock, every day of the year. Email memberservices@guardwellid.com or call 888.966.GUARD (4827) for help.

Accidentally Clicked on a Phishing Link – Now What

Accidentally Clicked on a Phishing Link – Now What

You know that searing flush-faced feeling when you pretty much know you made a mistake with a slip of the finger? Sometimes it’s sending a text too soon or responding to an email without editing your response. Other times it’s when you click on something you likely shouldn’t have … and then the “uh oh” escapes … and then the big sigh.

 

When we multitask, whether it is at work or at home, we do tend to slip up at times and open something that we shouldn’t. Then enters adware, malware, ransonmare, spyware, and whatever-else-is-next-ware into our lives.

 

Oops! Now what?

 

There are some imperative steps to take to alleviate harm to you and/or the network you may be connected with:

– Try not to panic. This happens to everyone. Antivirus and anti-malware will come into play and you will need to have a full system scan. But first …

– End the session immediately by turning off Wi-Fi, unplugging from an ethernet cable or completely shutting down all of your devices.

– Initiate a back up of your files. Since you won’t be connected to the internet at this point, you won’t be able to accomplish this to the cloud. Having an external drive, DVD or thumb drive are always nice to have on hand during times like these.

– Change your login/password to email account(s) and enable two-factor authentication if this hasn’t already occurred.

– If you are employed by a company or organization, reference your manual and let your network administrator know of the potential issue.

– After all is said and done, check your antivirus/anti-malware software and run a full scan.

 

Being informed of what steps you may need to take before a slip up happens can help ease the potential damage (and your stress level) if it does. As always, if you need help or have any concerns, we are available 24/7/365 for you.

New American Express Phishing Attack

New American Express Phishing Attack

A new form of phishing attack has recently targeted Amex cardholders and is more sophisticated than what experts have seen in the past. A phishing attack can arrive via email, text, social media message or even as a phone call and appears to be coming from someone you know (a person in your contact list or a company that you regularly interact with, such as your financial institution). According to the Identity Theft Resource Center, “the link embedded in the current American Express phishing attack comes via email and is two different parts. This way the hacker can insert malicious code into the link while also confusing the recipient’s antivirus software. Instead of warning about a harmful link, the software does not recognize it as malicious.”

 

How can you tell if an email is a phishing scam? The Amex email itself was very typical of a phishing attack – it was filled with grammatical errors including spelling and punctuation mistakes. Along with being on the lookout for language errors, here are some additional tips to keep in mind:

 

– Verify that the information is legitimate. If an email comes from your supervisor, call them and make sure. If an email comes from a company that you regularly do business with, ignore it and go directly to their website and check your account.

 

– Don’t click on a link or download an attachment from an email or message that you aren’t expecting.

 

– Double-check the sender’s address or the website address. For example, if it says, “AmazOn.com,” it is probably fake.

 

– Remember that caller ID is not trustworthy.

 

If you think you have received an American Express phishing email, don’t click on any of the links. The company suggests that you forward it to spoof@americanexpress.com so they can act to close down the phishing link. After the email is forwarded, delete it from your inbox.

 

Please call Guard Well Member Services at 888.966.4827 (GUARD) or email memberservices@guardwellid.com if you feel you have been a victim of identity theft. We are always available for you – 24/7/365.

 

 

Two-factor Authentication Phishing  Scam

Two-factor Authentication Phishing Scam

Have you tried to log into an account of yours, such as your insurance or financial institution, and been told to confirm your identity in order to keep your credentials safe? You then receive a code either via text or email which is required for you to enter. Also known as 2FA, this SMS multi-step process has been the trusted security step to protect your accounts … until recently.

 

Unfortunately, there is an automated phishing attack on 2FA, which utilizes two tools: Muraena and NecroBrowser. Reported by Fortune, “The two tools work together like the perfect crime duo. Think of Muraena as the clever bank robber and NecroBrowser as the getaway driver.”

 

The attack was first demonstrated at the Hack in the Box Security Conference in Amsterdam last month. A video of the presentation was posted on YouTube on June 2nd bringing renewed attention to how hackers are getting better at penetrating extra layers of security, despite people using stronger tools, like 2FA.

 

So, what do you do? Do you still want to utilize SMS-based 2FA for your accounts? For the most part, the answer is yes.

 

Think of it like this. Say you want to put a lock on your front door to protect your home. Security professionals are arguing that the best type of lock available is way better than cheaper locks. Sure, makes sense. But if that more expensive lock isn’t available to you, isn’t having a cheaper lock still better than not having a lock at all?

 

As discussed on How-to-Geek’s website, there are some people who are more likely than others to be targeted by sophisticated hackers and should avoid using this SMS-based 2FA. For example, if you’re a politician, journalist, celebrity, or business leader, you could be targeted. Also, if you’re a person with access to sensitive corporate data, such as a system administrator, or just very wealthy, SMS may be too risky.

 

But, if you’re the average person with a Gmail or Facebook account and no one has a reason to spend a bunch of time getting access to your accounts, SMS authentication is fine and you should absolutely use it rather than using nothing at all.

 

If you suspect that your login credentials have been compromised, change your passwords as quickly as possible and report the website to the FTC and/or your identity theft resolution provider.

 

Sources:

https://conference.hitb.org/

https://Howtogeek.com/