Veteran Data Exposed in Recent Breach

Veteran Data Exposed in Recent Breach

Last month the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Financial Services Center reported that the personal identifying information (PII) of more than 46,000 veterans had been stolen. Social security numbers may have been included in the hack. The VA Financial Services Center is in process of alerting impacted individuals via mail.

 

If you are a veteran (or next of kin of a deceased veteran), we suggest that you be on the lookout for any signs of fraud.

 

– Continue to watch your credit and individual account statements for activity that you have not initiated.

 

– Do not respond to any emails, phone calls or direct messages from anyone saying that they are from the VA Financial Services Center. The VA will contact anyone impacted via mail only.

 

Please reach out to us immediately if you have any questions or concerns about this alert. Be smart. Be vigilant. Be strong. As always, we are available for you and your family members 24/7/365 at 888.966.GUARD (4827) or memberservices@guardwellid.com.

 

Photo credit: Photo by Samuel Branch on Unsplash

Websites with Compromised Data on the Dark Web

Websites with Compromised Data on the Dark Web

Our security teams have recently discovered several large sets of compromised data on the Dark Web. The websites listed below have been affected. If you have visited these websites or have engaged in business activity with any of these companies, please call us at 888.966.GUARD (4827) to speak with a fraud resolution specialist. Likewise, if you have questions or concerns feel free to call anytime. We are available for you 24/7/365.

 

– apollo.io

– appen.com (formerly crowdflower.com)

– scentbird.com

– swvl.com

– promo.com (previously slide.ly)

– mathway.com

– truefire.com

– ggumim.co.kr

– dave.com

– chatbooks.com

– hurb.com

– liveauctioneers.com

– kreditplus.com

– execupharm.com

– dunzo.com

– verifications.io

– catho.com.br

– bhinneka.com

– wattpad.com

– gigasize.com

– netsential.com

 

 

Memorial Day Hacks and Hamburgers

Memorial Day Hacks and Hamburgers

Memorial Day is a special time of year to honor the men and women who have died while serving in the U. S. military. Originally known as Decoration Day, Memorial Day originated in the years following the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971. Visit History.com for more information.

 

Always the last Monday in May, this holiday also marks the unofficial beginning of summer fun … pool season, popsicles, and plenty of barbeques. Americans have traditionally observed Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries or memorials, holding family gatherings, and participating in parades. This year the weekend activities will likely look a bit different while social distancing, but we will continue to reflect on the sacrifices our soldiers made for us while lighting up our grills. Speaking of, take a visit to Chowhound.com for some amazing tips for the most perfect hamburger ever (80/20 lean to fat ratio ground chuck always!) and clever grilling hacks (Did you know you can use a spare a cooler as an insulated warmer to keep food hot and juicy right off the grill?). One tip you won’t see there is a favorite of mine … folding a dollop of mayo into each burger patty for optimal juiciness before they even go on the grill. Try it. You’ll love it!

 

Sadly, with the holiday, come the crooks that feed on our gratitude. Watch out for Memorial Day scams where hackers use a patriotic or military approach when contacting service members for money. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) suggests to be on the lookout for three specific scams during this time of remembrance:

 

High-priced military loans. No legitimate lender will guarantee a loan as being instantly approved. Watch for ads that may also say no credit check is required. If this is the case, the loan will likely come with hidden fees as well as outrageously high interest rates.

 

Veterans’ benefits buyout plans. These plans offer an attractive cash payment in exchange for a disabled veteran’s future benefits or pension payments. The cash payment is typically only 30-40% of what the veteran is entitled to receive.

 

Overpriced life insurance policies. The military are often targets of high pressure insurance salespeople, who want them to purchase an unnecessary and pricey life insurance policy.

 

Stay safe this weekend and please reach out to us if needed. As always, we are available 24/7/365 at 888.966.GUARD (4827) and at memberservices@guardwellid.com. And, if you have any great grilling ideas of your own, please share them in the comments below.

 

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.

Small Business Owners Targeted by Coronavirus Loan Scams

Small Business Owners Targeted by Coronavirus Loan Scams

We understand that this is a very confusing time when anxiety levels are extremely high. New programs are being launched and the details might not be completely understood at first. As of today, federal disaster loan assistance is now available for businesses, private nonprofits, homeowners, and renters negatively affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

 

If you are a small business owner, keep in mind that you may receive unsolicited calls, letters or emails. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is urging small business owners to keep an eye out for coronavirus-related loan scams as many of their members have received multiple loan scam emails and phone calls in the past few days. What do you do if you aren’t sure if an offer is legitimate or a scam? Understand that:

– No one should be charging an application fee to apply for the coronavirus disaster relief loan.

– You should not release any personal identifying information (PII), such as Social Security numbers, your date of birth, credit card information, or financial institution account data, in response to an unsolicited call, letter or email.

– The Better Business Bureau is available for more information on a company before you commit to anything.

– If ever in doubt, contact your state’s Attorney General’s office. You can search for that contact information HERE.

 

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.

 

 

Visit https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela/ for more information on federal disaster loans.

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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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.

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

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.