The Quick Rise of Phishing Scams – Do Not Click!

The Quick Rise of Phishing Scams – Do Not Click!

Many of us have been experiencing much more free time on our hands, which is great if you enjoy the sport of fishing, have a pile of books to read or Netflix shows to catch up on. Unless you are on the front line, life, as we know it during this pandemic, has forced the majority of us to slow down.

 

Our ‘new normal’ environment is a breeding ground for scammers to take advantage of you and your identity. Last month we wrote several blogs that specifically discussed the various types of coronavirus scams we had been witnessing. Check out Coronavirus Scams Are on the Rise, And More Coronavirus Scams, and Working From Home Cybersecurity Tips if interested in a quick refresher course or two.

 

Over the last two weeks we have seen a 70% increase in email phishing scams during this pandemic, which has undoubtedly touched every facet of our lives. These 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 even 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 any of it … but, in case you do, we suggest that you read our blog from October 2019 Accidentally Clicked on a Phishing Link – Now What?.

 

Today our advice is very simple: If you are not 100% certain of the origin of the email and/or link that you are being asked to click on … DO NOT CLICK. If for some reason you accidentally do click, 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. 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.

And More Coronavirus Scams …

And More Coronavirus Scams …

We are monitoring updates surrounding the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic around the clock. This environment is a breeding ground for scams to take advantage of you and your identity. Rest assured that we are here to help and will communicate with you every step of the way.

 

The following is the latest information that we know of regarding coronavirus scams:

 

– The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) sent warning letters to seven sellers of scam coronavirus treatments. The FTC reported that “So far all of the companies have made big changes to their advertising to remove unsupported claims.” That is good news. But, scammers never take a break.

 

– Anyone can set up an e-commerce site and claim they have in-demand products. Be on the lookout for online ads that tout cleaning, household and health/medical supplies. Just because they have a website and you pay money doesn’t mean that you will receive any goods in return. The FTC suggests that you check out any seller by searching online for the person or company name, phone number and email address along with keywords such as “review,” “complaint” or “scam.”

 

– Anyone can also set up a fake charity to take advantage of a major health crisis. These scammers take advantage of your generosity and have names that are extremely close to the names of real charities. The FTC remarked that “Money lost to bogus charities means less donations to help those in need.” We suggest that you visit http://www.ftc.gov/charity to help you research charities. Also, if/when you do give, pay safely by credit card and never by gift card or wire transfer.

 

– As well, anyone can pretend to be someone you know. “Scammers use fake emails or texts to get you to share valuable personal information – like account numbers, Social Security numbers, or your login IDs and passwords.” If you accidentally click on a link, they can get access to your computer, network and/or install ransomware and other programs on your equipment that can lock you out. Please protect your smart phone and computer by keeping your software up to date and using multi-factor authentication. Backing up your data on a regular basis is also recommended.

 

– Surprisingly robocalls “pitching everything from scam coronavirus treatments to work-at-home schemes” are still in full force. Do not answer unless the call shows up as a contact in your phone. Let voicemail filter your messages. For more information on robocalls, visit https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0259-robocalls.

 

We understand that all of this is indeed nerve-wracking. One of the great things about our business is that we are always working in the moment … situations such as the coronavirus do not rattle our operations and team members. Not only do we have a team at a centralized location, but we have also always worked remotely. We will continue to be available for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. We hope that this gives you some peace of mind knowing that we are on top of this crisis and will continue to communicate any dangerous scams related to the outbreak as soon as possible.

 

As always, please contact us immediately if you have any concerns at 888.966.GUARD (4827) or memberservices@guardwellid.com.

 

 

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.

Cincinnati Business Courier HR Forum Postponed

Cincinnati Business Courier HR Forum Postponed

The Cincinnati Business Courier is postponing its HR Forum originally scheduled for March 31st. “Our primary goal is to protect the health of attendees and those working the event, so postponing it in light of the spread of the COVID-19 virus is the appropriate decision at this time,” said Cincinnati Business Courier Market President Jamie Smith. “We’ll announce the new date as soon as possible and look forward to hosting people at future events.”

 

Our Founder and CEO, E. Allan Hilsinger, is one of three industry experts for the human resources live panel, which includes Deidre Bird, Director of HR Consulting, VonLehman CPA & Advisory Firm and Justin Flamm, Partner and Co-Chair Employment and Labor Relations Practice Group, Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP.

 

We will announce the new date on our social media channels once it is determined. All attendee tickets will be valid for the rescheduled date.

Guard Well Founder and CEO to be Panelist in HR Forum

Guard Well Founder and CEO to be Panelist in HR Forum

On Tuesday, March 31, 2020, the Cincinnati Business Courier will host a live panel discussion with industry experts concerning the ongoing changes and critical issues impacting Human Resources. The panel will discuss workforce issues around employee engagement, retention strategies, organizational development, compensation, benefits, and educating tomorrow’s business leaders.

 

Our Founder and CEO, E. Allan Hilsinger, will be one of three panelists. Other industry experts include Deirdre Bird, Director of HR Consulting, VonLehman CPA & Advisory Firm and Justin Flamm, Partner and Co-Chair Employment and Labor Relations Practice Group, Taft, Stettinius & Hollister LLP.

 

If you would like to attend the event, please register HERE.

Guard Well Recognized as a 2020 Top 10 IAM Solutions Provider

Guard Well Recognized as a 2020 Top 10 IAM Solutions Provider

Enterprise Security Magazine has once again recognized Guard Well Identity Theft Solutions as a Top 10 Identity and Access Management (IAM) Solutions Provider. The magazine first featured Guard Well’s Founder and CEO, E. Allan Hilsinger, in 2019. Their article, “An Intelligent Way to Protect Your Employees,” can be found HERE.

Tips to Lower Your Fraud Risk this Tax Season

Tips to Lower Your Fraud Risk this Tax Season

It’s tax season! For some, preparing and filing taxes is an hour or two-long process; for others, it’s a week or more. By year-end, the majority of us know if we will owe or if we are due to receive a refund … it’s just a matter of how much … and we are happy that everything is completed once tax season is over. Things don’t typically go awry, but tax-related fraud does happen. Knowing how to lower your risk and knowing what to do if it does occur to you, will help prevent the lasting damages to your wallet and credit score.

 

Let’s say for this example that you will be receiving a refund. Imagine looking forward to getting that money so you can pay off those holiday bills or plan that special vacation you’ve been day-dreaming of (or perhaps both if you’re lucky). After preparing your taxes, you happily press “send.” But then WHAM! … your return is rejected by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) because they already received one for you. How could that happen and what do you do if it does?

 

Tax identity theft is when someone uses a stolen Social Security number (SSN) to file a tax return. You may be wondering, “Why would someone want to do this if I will actually owe taxes?” Even if you aren’t expecting a refund, you are still at risk. Thieves can enter fake income using your SSN in order to trick the IRS into giving a refund but, instead of that money going to you, it is actually wired to the criminal’s account. Even though the IRS has made significant efforts to help stop fraud cases in their tracks in recent years, it still happens.

 

Is tax fraud preventable? No. Are there steps you can take to help reduce your risk? Yes.

 

– Time is of the essence. Prepare and file your return as quickly as possible before someone else does it for you.

 

– Protect your personal identifying information (PII) by: 1) shredding documents that you do not need for tax preparation; 2) keeping your SSN card in a safe deposit box; 3) taking any outgoing mail to your local post office (do not put any mail with PII in your own mailbox – even though federal mail theft is a felony, it still happens); 4) getting your mail as soon as possible after it is delivered; 5) not responding to a phone call asking for or requesting that you confirm any PII (the IRS and legitimate companies will not initiate contact with you for this information unless you have reached out to them first); 6) not opening email attachments or clicking on any links that are not familiar to you; and 7) keeping your personal devices on lockdown unless you are using them (utilize firewalls and keep your anti-virus protection software up-to-date).

 

– If you think your PII has already been compromised, consider putting a free fraud alert on your credit file. There are two options: 1) an initial fraud alert, which is free and will last 90 days or 2) an extended fraud alert, which can be $10 or more but can last up to seven years.

 

– Be aware of the latest scams. Read our blogs on the topic: New Year Scam 2020 Style and Scams, Scams and More Darn Scams

 

– Actively monitor your accounts. You can access your tax account history (and see if someone has already filed for you) at https://www.irs.gov/.

 

– Get a trustworthy tax preparer. There are people who pose as tax preparers as well as online filing services that may promise you a bigger refund and/or may make questionable deductions for you in order to increase their fee. If you are seeking professional help, make sure it is from a certified tax professional or certified public accountant.

 

If your tax return is rejected due to being a ‘duplicate,’ an Identity Theft Affidavit (IRS Form 14039) should be filed as soon as possible to let the IRS know that someone else is using your identity. Contact Guard Well’s Member Services at 1.888.966.GUARD (4827) immediately if needed. A team member is always available 24/7/365. You can also email us at memberservices@guardwellid.com. Happy filing!

 

 

Cybersecurity Trends in Store for 2020

Cybersecurity Trends in Store for 2020

Did you know that the first documented ransomware attack was more than 30 years ago in 1989? That was around the time when a mobile phone was called a bag phone because it sat in a big black bag in your passenger seat … and that curly cord was wound so tight it hardly let it extend to your ear. If you were lucky, you could store about 30 numbers in it. But back then, that was pretty amazing storage. Then flip phones started to make our lives easier in later years. It was pretty simple but the fact that it could actually fit in your pocket made it truly mobile. There was rarely a thought that anyone was listening in on your conversations or tracking your locations (which they probably were but the average person didn’t think doing so was devious). Boy, have times changed.

 

Attacks involving ransomware, which were originally designed to target individuals, are occurring every 14 seconds now. Shocking isn’t it. After you read this sentence, focus on how long it takes you to breathe … inhale and exhale. Your full circle breathing process is likely anywhere from six to eight seconds, which is how long hackers are trying to increase the speed of ransomware attacks by this time next year.

 

Dave Wallen discussed some of the expected 2020 cybersecurity trends in a blog last week for Security Boulevard so we all can be “better prepared against the ever-evolving nature of cyber threats.” He wrote, “With today’s pervasive use of the internet, a modern surge in cyberattacks and the benefit of hindsight, it’s easy to see how ignoring security decades ago was a massive flaw.” It’s not just the speed of the attacks that is alarming, it is the variety of them that are going to keep things interesting for 2020.

 

So what are some of the trends we will be seeing in 2020?

 

Fear will drive spending. Gartner forecasts that worldwide spending on cybersecurity is going to reach $133.7 billion in 2022. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) have pushed businesses and government agencies to a more sophisticated cybersecurity infrastructure than ever. Wallen noted that 76% of organizations plan to increase their cybersecurity budgets this year.

 

The cybersecurity labor market will continue to experience labor shortages. There are many reasons for this skills gap. Not only are there more cybercriminals, but there are also more places for scammers to hide with our ever-expanding reliance on technology. Also, there still needs to be a balance of expanding skills in a very specific area with teaching broad skills that can be useful across many sectors. Think of those with titles such as chief information officer (CIO) and chief information security officer (CISO) – they are currently undervalued.

 

Cloud security will require a more pragmatic approach. The assumption that our data is secure on ‘the cloud’ in applications such as Microsoft and Google will be a thing of the past. In 2019, we saw massive attacks against Office 365 and G Suite that can bypass two-factor authentification making shared accounts exceptionally vulnerable.

 

Mobile devices will become even a greater target. As the number of mobile users increases, so will the amount of business data stored in them. Wallen wrote, “It’s a compelling reason why mobiles are seen as the primary cyberattack vector in 2020.”

 

Election security will be off the charts. With over 70 elections globally planned in 2020, there will be an intense focus on the spreading of disinformation.

 

5G, the fifth-generation wireless technology, will cause an increase in loT-based (Internet of Things) attacks. There will need to be a higher level of security which many current vendors are not able to provide yet. Hackers will take advantage of this gap to “sneak in malware and steal large volumes of your SaaS data at breakneck speed.”

 

AI (Artificial Intelligence) will become even more two-faced. While the benefits of AI are countless and help to protect our security, defakes (fake videos) that can spread misinformation will become more prominent and new types of cyberattacks will result because of them.

 

Organizations will continue to see their biggest asset, their employees, become their biggest threat. As reported in Governing.com, “The problem is that now our most important information, whether it’s sales prospects or customer lists or source code … is spread across the organization and is highly portable on a thumb drive or e-mail … information is less ‘siloed.'” Their study shows that “63 percent of people admit that they took data from their last job and brought it to their current job.”

 

We will also continue to see more fake apps and shopping cart viruses, new account fraud, apps that share our data along with phishing scams (and whaling scams if you’re a high-ranking executive or banker). Identity theft will also be rampant through social media. Lastly, child identity theft will continue to rise. It is suggested that every child have a credit freeze on their file. If you would like more information about how to do so, please reach out to our Member Services team at memberservices@guardwellid.com or call 1.888.966.4827. We are here to help 24/7/365.

Founder and CEO on iHeartRadio 700WLW Podcast

Founder and CEO on iHeartRadio 700WLW Podcast

On December 5, 2019, Guard Well Identity Theft Solutions Founder and CEO, E. Allan Hilsinger, was interviewed by Rocky and Rachel on Cincinnati’s News Radio 700WLW. Topics discussed during the ten-minute segment (51:50 to 60:52) include the risk of living in a technologically advanced society, what a digital footprint is and how to reduce the risk of your data being collected and sold online.

 

Hilsinger remarked, “We all have a social security number. We are all at risk. If you haven’t already been victimized by identity theft or identity fraud, it’s going to happen. It’s a sad reality…” He stated that there are 3.5 million Google searches every minute and 4.3 billion Facebook posts every day “…all of that information is being collected and sold.”

 

What can be done to help reduce this risk? Hilsinger suggested the following in the podcast:

– Be careful about what information you put on social media. For example, remove your birthdate from your Facebook account.

– When you search online, do it privately. Don’t allow cookies if possible when looking at websites.

– Try not to share your location with Google Maps.

– Inactivate and delete any old email accounts.

– Search for your own name on Google and see what pops up. If your name is listed on People Search or People Finder, you can submit a request for them to pull your information down.

 

Hilsinger also discussed a service site called DeleteMe.Com that will facilitate users in deleting their presence on other sites and will provide information on privacy laws in multiple countries to better educate the users on their rights in relation to data privacy.

 

To listen to the full podcast, visit https://www.iheart.com/podcast/eddie-rocky-20799661/episode/rocky-and-rachel-12519-53509284/?fbclid=IwAR2zfrqzsSc8c08pB3-YOiBR6WH3k3jszEVWPJytlzSlnyvJ3qVihPD7j6c

Founder and CEO Featured as Identity Theft Expert on WLWT5

Founder and CEO Featured as Identity Theft Expert on WLWT5

On November 15, 2019, Cincinnati’s WLWT5 Investigates featured our Founder and CEO, E. Allan Hilsinger. Dan Griffin, Investigative Reporter, reached out to Hilsinger to be the identity theft industry expert in his segment “How Do You Control Your Digital Footprint.”

 

Transcript:

In today’s world, our personal information is easier than ever for anyone to access. Where you live, where you work, your phone number, and even information about your relatives is available for free.

 

So how do you control your digital footprint? WLWT talked with an identity theft expert to figure out ways to lessen your exposure. One of the most surprising things we learned is that you don’t need to use the internet for your data to live online. Just like footprints in the snow, your digital footprint can lead anyone right to your front door. With a simple click, a crook could cause devastating damage.

 

“There are 3.5 million searches on Google every minute. There are 4.3 billion posts on Facebook every day. All of that information is being stored and sold,” Allan Hilsinger said. Hilsinger is the founder and CEO of Cincinnati-based Guardwell Identity Theft Solutions. He said that that is one way your data can be exposed. Hilsinger also said massive data breaches put your information in a digital wild west.

 

“The 80-year-old lady that never gets online, that shreds all of her documents, that has never given her Social Security number to anybody, she doesn’t have a social media account,” he said. “She doesn’t post pictures. She’s virtually as unavailable online as anybody, anywhere. She still may have shopped at Target. She still could have a credit file with Equifax. She still could have gone to Home Depot during their breach.”

 

Your digital footprint lives online and it builds a picture of who you are, with your name, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, social media presence and more.

 

Websites we found like FamilyTreeNow.com and TruePeopleSearch.com reveal that kind of information to anyone free of charge. Hilsinger said that makes it easy for someone to steal your identity.

 

“They might buy a house. They might get a job. They might buy a cellphone. They might have a medical procedure,” he said.

 

Hilsinger said that while you likely can never scrub your data from the digital world, you can remove it from some websites by looking for the “Frequently Asked Questions” or “Help” sections.

 

“And we get toward the bottom and we’re going to stop here. ‘How do I remove myself from this site?’ In the paragraph, there is a ‘click here’ button. Once I click on here, I am navigated to a page that gives me the exact instructions on how to remove my information from this website. So I don’t have to worry about this website being an issue for me any further,” he said.

 

He also said people should use their web browsers in private mode, should stop sharing their location on their devices and should disable cookies.

 

If you do think your identity may have been compromised, experts like Hilsinger and his employees can help you navigate what could be damaging situations.

 

“We all, every one of us, have a digital footprint. We have to have an understanding that the more digital that we want to be and we become, the more risk of exposure and identity fraud and identity theft that we have,” he said.

 

Hilsinger’s company provides protection for families, including children, which is why he said getting protection before problems happen is important. He said that children are just as vulnerable to their data being exposed, and even identity theft, because they also have digital lives.

 

Watch the complete segment at https://www.wlwt.com/article/wlwt-investigates-how-do-you-control-your-digital-footprint/29802124?fbclid=IwAR3r3d_nBjCTNQPlF-uuHLHZVDLsu21ryTPfPLYTuPH2nuDQHLEKxzmCSz8#