Help Spread the Word: Identity Theft Awareness Week

Help Spread the Word: Identity Theft Awareness Week

Welcome to Identity Theft Awareness Week. January 29th to February 2nd, otherwise known as #IDTheftWeek, exists to spread resources so you and your loved ones can stay ahead of identity thieves. Whether you’re a business owner, a young adult, a service member, an older adult or someone caring for a senior, understand that knowledge is power and identity theft knows no boundaries.

With tax season right around the corner, it is especially important to know that one of the biggest signs of identity theft is when you are unable to file your tax return because someone else has already filed one using your personal identifying information (PII). Other signs of identity theft include seeing unfamiliar transactions on one of your accounts and/or seeing new accounts you didn’t open on one of your credit report checks.

Here are five tips from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to help protect your identity:

– Read your credit card and bank statements carefully. If there is something that you don’t recognize, check into it. Even though you might have dreamed about a Louis Vuitton handbag, chances are you would know if you purchased one and certainly wouldn’t be footing the bill if you didn’t.

– Know your payment due dates. If a bill you pay regularly, such as your electric or water bill, doesn’t appear in your mailbox (or inbox), contact the provider immediately. The last thing you want is to have anything shut off in the dead of winter or an energy bill that is three times what you were expecting.

– Shred any documents that contain your PII, medical or financial information. Many national chains provide shredding services if you don’t own a personal shredder. Check out your local UPS store or FedEx Office for options.

– Review each of your three credit reports at least once a year. Visit our credit report check for more information.

Guard Well Identity Theft Solutions exists to provide you, your family, and your employees from the damages of identity theft. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact our Member Services team immediately. We are always available for you 24/7/365 at 888.966.4827 (GUARD).

 

Photo courtesy credit: Dylan Gillis via Unsplash.com

 

Investment Opportunity or Not? Keeping Eyes on Your 💰

Investment Opportunity or Not? Keeping Eyes on Your 💰

One of the top scams of the century involving investments is making a comeback in 2024. A fixed deposit, otherwise known as a term deposit, has traditionally been an investment plan that allows you to earn a safe guaranteed rate of interest for a lump sum over a fixed period of time. Funds can be withdrawn during the fixed term but there are fees to do so. Unfortunately, anyone with access to your personal identifying information and banking credentials can withdraw the money from these accounts.

Scammers desiring to cash in on anyone’s deal are offering fake investments that the masses are falling for. Here is how to get on the band wagon of what you need to know about fake fixed term deposit investment scams so you don’t fall victim:

– Understand that there is no such thing as easy money and it definitely doesn’t grow on trees.

– Every investment has some degree of risk. There is also risk in not investing at all so working with a reputable company registered with the Financial Industry Regulation Authority (FINRA), the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) or your state securities regulator is imperative.

– Get it in writing. If there isn’t any documentation that can mean that the investment may not be registered with the SEC and is not legit.

– An unsolicited phone call, text or email promising guaranteed profits is a really good reason to block the number or sender. With artificial intelligence (AI) having entered the pictured the last couple of years, it is understandably confusing as to who is real and who isn’t.

– If you are rushed to make any type of investment decision so you ‘don’t lose out’ and your gut tells you this investment is smelling fishy, then it’s probably ‘phishy,’ a scam technique that isn’t going away anytime soon. To learn more about phishing scams, check out the Federal Trade Commission’s article on the subject HERE.

Guard Well Identity Theft Solutions exists to provide you, your family, and your employees from the damages of identity theft. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact our Member Services team immediately. We are always available for you 24/7/365 at 888.966.4827 (GUARD).

Photo courtesy credit: Micheile Henderson on Unsplash.com

Holiday Rental Scams are Not on Your Wish List

Holiday Rental Scams are Not on Your Wish List

There is expected to be over 115 million people traveling this holiday season. If you and your family are in the same boat (or plane or car or train), please be aware that holiday rental scams are abundant and there isn’t any hope that they are going away anytime soon.

If you are renting a vehicle and/or housing for the holidays, here are some important tips to keep in mind:

– A legitimate rental company will not ask you to prepay for a rental with a gift card or prepaid debit card. Research the rental company’s name along with terms such as ‘scam’ ‘reviews’ and ‘complaints.’

– Be aware that rental listings can be hijacked and fake. The contact information can be changed and the listing could be re-posted on many different sites and occasionally list properties that don’t actually exist. Search online for the actual rental location’s address along with the name of the property owner or rental company. If other ads come up for the same address, the listing has most likely been hijacked. If your request to check out the property first before agreeing to rent is met with the owner or rental company saying they are “not available” or “out of the country,” and they insist on you paying an application fee and deposit first, check around for a new place to spend the holidays.

– Do not consider paying by a payment app, such as Venmo or PayPal. Instead, pay by credit card which will give you the best protection and make it easier for you to get your money back if it is a scam.

For more information on how to keep your holidays happy and fraud-free, check out this blog.

Guard Well Identity Theft Solutions exists to provide you, your family, and your employees from the damages of identity theft. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact our Member Services team immediately. We are always available for you 24/7/365 at 888.966.4827 (GUARD).

Source: AAA and Federal Trade Commission

Photo credit courtesy: Osman Rana via unsplash.com

 

 

How to Spot a Scam with Children’s Health Insurance

How to Spot a Scam with Children’s Health Insurance

The cost of health care has skyrocketed in the United States. The very topic is as stressful as it is expensive. Did you know that the United States is the highest spending country on healthcare worldwide? In 2021, total health expenditure exceeded four trillion dollars with per capita health expenditure at $12,555.30. Statista Research recently reported that expenditure as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is projected to increase to approximately 20% by 2030.

During the pandemic, each state’s Medicaid Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) helped millions of families with the cost of healthcare. With the end of the pandemic, states are reaching out to update Medicaid enrollments and scammers are already taking advantage of the situation. CHIP won’t ask you to pay to renew … but scammers will.

Here is what you need to know:

– CHIP won’t charge you to renew or enroll. They may reach out to you via email, phone or text but they will NOT ask you to pay, for any of your personal financial information and especially your credit card number or bank account information.

– Do NOT click! Even if it looks like a message is from your state’s Medicaid agency, if there is anything clickable in a message, assume it is scam and visit medicaid.gov to get contact information for your state’s Medicaid agency.

– Utilize healthcare.gov to complete insurance plans, find coverage and see if you are eligible. The website will ask you for your monthly income and age to give you a quote.

– Understand that medical discount plans are NOT insurance plans. Scammers will pitch discount plans to entice you and make you think they are the same as insurance.

Guard Well Identity Theft Solutions exists to provide you, your family, and your employees from the damages of identity theft. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact our Member Services team immediately. We are always available for you 24/7/365 at 888.966.4827 (GUARD).

Source: Federal Trade Commission

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Charles Deluvio via unsplash.com

Social Media Apps Parents Should Know About

Social Media Apps Parents Should Know About

As children get older and become more independent, their time on smart phones and laptops increase substantially. Yes, you can set screen time limits for them but, as a parent, you likely won’t be able to implement that control continuously through the years. It is important to help your children be aware that predators have the ability to find them through some of the apps they use.

Ways to Help Protect Your Children:

  • Approve every app on your child’s phone
  • Understand how to use privacy settings and check them regularly
  • Discuss what you expect of your children in regard to phone usage
  • Educate yourself and your children on social media etiquette
  • Research the popular apps in your particular geographic area
  • Check your child’s phone periodically for any new apps

 

These apps can be dangerous and expose your children to a range of events from bullying and unwanted sexual messages to kidnapping and identity theft.

  • DISCORD – is a messaging platform similar to Slack involving chat rooms, direct messaging, voice chat and video calls. Discord has consistently been in the top five platforms for bullying, suicidal ideation, body image, etc. Adult content is rampant.
  • TWITTER (now X) – Once considered as the app to go to for breaking news it is now a go to source for porn.
  • OMEGLE – is an anonymous video chatting platform that pairs you with a complete stranger anywhere in the world.
  • YIKYAK – is another anonymous chatting app that lets users within a five mile radius read publicly posted messages.
  • HOUSEPARTY – a video chatting app that allows friends to communicate with each other through live video and texts in chat groups. The app has no parental controls and by default, is not set to private.
  • YOUTUBE KIDS – a separate version of the popular video-sharing site aimed squarely at children 4+. There have been reports of videos that have kid-friendly titles but are clearly not kid-friendly content.
  • TUMBLER – a micro-blogging site that allows users to share photos, videos and short blogs with a built-in chat function. Although Tumbler banned pornographic content in 2018, it is still possible to see sexually suggestive images and there have been reports of pro-anorexia, and pro-selfharm posts.
  • TELLONYM – a cross-platform messaging app to have questions answered. It was created as a means to give and receive anonymous feedback.
  • BUMBLE – similar to the Tinder dating app but requires females to make the first contact. Children have been known to use Bumble to create fake accounts with a false age.
  • ME – a live-streaming video service that utilizes geolocation so users can find out each broadcaster’s exact location. Users of this app can earn”coins” as a way to “pay” minors for their photos and videos.
  • ASKFM – a cyber-bullying app that encourages anonymous people to ask anonymous questions. The answers are then used to cyber bully the account holders.
  • SNAPCHAT – most popular app amongst middle and high schoolers. Users can take photos/videos and create “storie” that can be viewed for 24 hours before it disappears. This app also has geolocation so users can see each person’s exact location.
  • HOOP – Hoop has been described as Tinder meeting Snapchat. Children as young as 12 can form connections with complete strangers.
  • ROBLOX – is similar to the popular game Minecraft that children 5+ are able to use. It has user-generated content and an in-game chat feature. Content such as profanity, sex, drugs and alcohol are often run into. This app is also another potential for predatory adults to message children.
  • HOLLA – is one of the most self-proclaimed addicting video apps where users can chat with people all over the world in just seconds. Racial slurs, explicit content and identity theft are to be expected.
  • CALCULATOR% – is one of several secret apps used to hide photos, videos, files and browser history. The app looks like a calculator but functions like a secret photo vault.
  • KIK – provides account holders unlimited access to direct message anyone anywhere. This free app also has built-in apps and web content that would be typically filtered on a home computer.
  • WHISPER – another anonymous social network that promotes the sharing of secrets with strangers. A user’s location can be revealed so people can meet up.
  • HOT OR NOT – this app encourages users to rate your profile, check out people in their geographic area and chat with strangers with the goal of hooking up.
  • OMEGLE – is a free online chat website that promotes chatting anonymously with strangers.
  • YELLOW – another “Tinder” like app that allows teens to flirt with each other.
  • BURN BOOK – known to be the app where anonymous rumors can be spread through audio messages, text, and photos.
  • WISHBONE – allows users to compare kids against each other and rate them on a scale.
  • INSTAGRAM – is a very popular photo/video sharing app that allows users to assign filters to photos and share them with their followers. Everyone who creates an Instagram account has a profile as well as a newsfeed. There are privacy settings that can make accounts public or private. It is popular for children to create fake accounts with fake names, ages and pictures.

New apps are developed daily so stay in the know regarding the social media scene and what your children are talking about with their friends. Utilizing the same apps your children use can also help you keep up-to-date on what privacy controls are available and how they work.

Guard Well Identity Theft Solutions exists to provide you, your family, and your employees from the damages of identity theft. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact our Member Services team immediately. We are always available for you 24/7/365 at 888.966.4827 (GUARD).

Note: this blog has been updated as of August 8, 2023.

Photo credit courtesy from unsplash.com.

Cryptocurrency: Deposits with No Returns

Cryptocurrency: Deposits with No Returns

Cryptocurrency is not a topic that many people know about or understand. Crypto, such as bitcoin and Ether, is a type of digital currency that in most cases exists only electronically in a digital wallet. You are able to buy it using your device, computer or a cryptocurrency ATM. But why would you? People buy it as an investment, to quickly pay for things and to avoid transaction fees that a traditional bank would charge. Another advantage of paying with crypto is because it offers some degree of anonymity. Crypto can also be earned through a complicated process called mining.

Scammers are banking on the fact that the general population doesn’t know much about this topic and crypto-related scams are popping up quickly. The Federal Trade Commission offers several tips on how you can avoid such a scam:

– Don’t trust companies who make big promises or guarantees. Only scammers guarantee big money in crypto with no risk.

– Do your homework. Research the company or specific type of crypto platform by using search engine terms such as “scam,” “complaint,” “review” and “news.”

– Understand that crypto accounts are NOT backed by the government like traditional Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) bank accounts are.

– Learn as much as you can about cryptocurrency and scams so you can recognize the red flags when they pop up.

Guard Well Identity Theft Solutions exists to provide you, your family, and your employees from the damages of identity theft. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact our Member Services team immediately. We are always available for you 24/7/365 at 888.966.4827 (GUARD).

Photo credit courtesy: John Tuesday via unsplash.com

Major Eyewear Company: Over 70 Million Hacked

Major Eyewear Company: Over 70 Million Hacked

Our security teams have recently discovered large data sets of compromised cyber elements on the Dark Web. On May 19th, the world’s largest eyewear company, Luxottica, confirmed reports of a 2021 data breach from a vendor’s computer network that leaked private information.

Luxottica, based in Milan, Italy, designs and manufactures sunglass and prescription frames. Brands include Burberry, Chanel, Dolce and Gabbana, Georgio Armani, Michael Kors, Oakley and Ray-Ban. The company also owns several retailers selling products such as LensCrafters and Sunglass Hut.

The hacking origin date is November, 2022 with retail customer data exposed being name, email address, physical address and phone number.

The company’s public acknowledgement stated that they discovered through their “proactive monitoring procedures that certain retail customer data, allegedly obtained through a third-party vendor related to Luxottica retail customers, was published in an online post.” The company reported the incident to the FBI and the Italian Police. The owner of the website where the data was exposed has since been arrested by the FBI. The website that leaked the information has also been shut down and the investigation is still ongoing. Learn More

Guard Well Identity Theft Solutions exists to provide you, your family, and your employees from the damages of identity theft. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact our Member Services team immediately. We are always available for you 24/7/365 at 888.966.4827 (GUARD).

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Breach Alert Impacts 1.2 Million: RentoMojo.com

Breach Alert Impacts 1.2 Million: RentoMojo.com

Our security teams have recently discovered that online furniture and electronics rental startup RentoMojo has confirmed a data breach. The hacking origin date is April 23, 2023 and impacts 1.2 million. Personal identifying information data exposed include email addresses, user id, phone number, nationality and passport numbers.

The company reported that the attackers were able to gain access by exploiting cloud misconfiguration. Malicious attackers are continuously hunting for misconfigured cloud assets. They are vulnerabilities waiting to happen.

Guard Well Identity Theft Solutions exists to provide you, your family, and your employees from the damages of identity theft. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact our Member Services team immediately. We are always available for you 24/7/365 at 888.966.4827 (GUARD).

Image courtesy credit: Erfan Parhizi via unsplash.com.

Financial Tips for 2023 Grads

Financial Tips for 2023 Grads

It’s that exciting time of year! Cap and gowns are coming in and Pomp and Circumstance is running through your head as you prepare for the big event. If you’re a parent of a soon-to-be high school graduate, dollar signs may be running through your head as well, along with advice … and lots of it!

If you’re a grad, get ready to hear life experience stories from your graduation speaker and many others. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has some advice for you as well. Learn how to recognize financial scams. Younger people report losing money to fraud more often than older generations. According to Colleen Tressler, Consumer Education Specialist, FTC, 43% of those who reported fraud were in their 20s, while only 15% were in their 70s.

What can you do to help avoid financial fraud?

Never give out money or any personal identifying information (PII) in response to an unexpected request. Be wary of texts, phone calls and emails. Scammers commonly pretend to be someone you trust.

Do your research. Be smart with your online searches and use terms like “complaint,” “scam” or “alert” along with the company name when you search.

Understand that there’s no such thing as truthful caller ID anymore.

Don’t wire money. Government and legitimate companies will not require you to pay for products or services with a re-loadable gift card. Even using cards like iTunes and Google Play are risky.

Recognize that robocalls are illegal and should be reported to the FTC. If you mistakenly answer one of these calls, hang up immediately.

Looking for a job after graduation can be quite stressful especially if you’re supporting yourself for the first time.

Check out job placement firms closely. These companies should not be charging high fees in advance for any type of service without a guarantee of placement.

Keep in mind that the promise of a job isn’t the same thing as job. If you have to pay for that promise, it’s likely a scam. Read More

Realize that there are many fake jobs listed on social media. Google the company name and visit their website along with the search term “career.” If jobs are not listed on their website and nothing comes up on Google, those are red flags.

Don’t give out any credit or bank account information over the phone to a company unless they have hired you and have agreed to pay you something.

Get job details in writing and take time to go over the small print. A legitimate company won’t pressure you into making an on-the-spot decision regarding your career.

CNN recently reported some smart money moves for graduates, such as aiming to live within your means and knowing what your means actually are. Check out their tips HERE.

Congratulations and make sure you enjoy your special day. We wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors!

For more information, visit https://www.consumer.ftc.gov.

Photo courtesy Jonathon Daniels via unsplash.com.

NortonLifeLock Password Manager Tool Hacked

NortonLifeLock Password Manager Tool Hacked

NortonLifeLock has notified their customers that hackers have breached their Password Manager accounts. This latest breach dates back to December 2022 when thousands of customers were told that their accounts were compromised. Just recently, the parent company of NortonLifeLock, Gen Digital (formerly Symantec Corporation), reported that “the likely culprit was a credential stuffing attack.” This type of attack involves credentials that had previously been exposed or breached being used to break into accounts on different websites that share the same password.

By far, password protection is critical for online safety. Enabling multi-factor authentication (MFA) and having exceptional password hygiene habits are great practices to follow. For example, every account that requires a password should have their own unique, complex and random password. Try to avoid using combinations that utilize information that could be connected to your social media accounts, such as a loved one’s birthday or a pet’s name. Hackers are well-known to comb their intended victims’ social media accounts.

Guard Well Identity Theft Solutions exists to protect you, your family, and your employees from the damages of identity theft. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact our Member Services team immediately. We are always available for you 24/7/365 at 888.966.4827 (GUARD).

Photo courtesy of https://unsplash.com/@flyd2069.