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.

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.

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.

Triple Date Breach Climbs to 25 Million: TruthFinder, Instant Checkmate and Gemini

Triple Date Breach Climbs to 25 Million: TruthFinder, Instant Checkmate and Gemini

Our security teams have recently discovered that over 25 million people have been impacted by data breaches involving TruthFinder, Instant Checkmate and Gemini.

Both TruthFinder and Instant Checkmate are subscription-based websites owned by PeopleConnect that allow users to do background checks on people by utilizing public records. The breaches for both companies occurred on April 12, 2019. While TruthFinder’s breach involves eight million account holders, Instant Checkmate’s is even larger impacting 12 million. Stolen account holder information includes users’ email addresses, phone numbers and passwords for both sites. Parent company PeopleConnect has confirmed that all customer accounts created between 2011 and 2019 have been impacted and that the published list originated inside their company. Learn More

Gemini (Gemini Trust Company, LLC) is a cryptocurrency exchange and custodian that allows customers to buy, sell and store digital assets. The American-owned company operates in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, South Korea, Hong Kong and Singapore. The breach size of 5.4 million originated December 13, 2022 as a result of a third-party incident. The company has declared that some customers have been the target of phishing campaigns from that third-party vendor exposing millions of email addresses and partial phone numbers. Learn More

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 by https://unsplash.com Erfan Parhizi

 

The Top Scams of 2022

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is a United States federal agency that works to prevent deceptive, fraudulent and unfair business practices. Their first objective is to identify fraud that cause the greatest consumer injury. Their second objective is to stop the fraud, deception and unfair practices through law enforcement. Finally, their third objective is to prevent consumer injury from happening in the first place through education.

Every year the FTC reports the top scam highlights of the previous year. This is how 2022 stacked up:

– Investment scams had the largest losses at $3.8 billion. Investment scams promise that you will make a lot of money quickly, easily and with low risk. The FTC reported that these scams involve the investment in financial or real estate markets. Learn how to research investment opportunities HERE.

– Impersonator scams were, once again, the most reported scam. Losses from these scams total $2.6 billion for 2022. The FTC reported that the major difference in this type of scam from the previous year is that there were higher losses to business imposters to the tune of $660 million in comparison to last year’s $453 million. Scams in this category include social security, IRS, romance, caregiver, family emergency, tech support and grandchild scams. Learn how to identify a scam happening to you or a loved one by viewing the short videos HERE.

How were scams identified and processed? Some losses were through bank transfers. Others started on social media and phone calls. Young adults in their 20s reported losses more often than seniors in their 70s. Unfortunately, the seniors lost more money than any other age group.

The FTC has a PDF available for download with a visual snapshot of the top frauds of 2022. Click HERE to learn about the rest of 2022’s top scams and view the PDF.

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.

Online Music Streaming Service Breach Impacts Billions

Online Music Streaming Service Breach Impacts Billions

Our security teams have recently discovered that a former deezer.com partner experienced a data breach in 2019 that has impacted 257 billion users. Deezer is a France-based music streaming platform. Leaked information includes users’ dates of birth, email addresses, genders, geographic locations, IP addresses, names, spoken languages and/or surnames. The hacking dates back to mid-2019 when a Deezer third-party fell victim to a breach exposing user data, which was then sold on a popular hacking forum.

The hacker claimed that the data breach affects users in the United States, the United Kingdom, Brazil, Columbia, France, Germany, Guatemala, Italy, Mexico and Turkey.

Other music streaming platforms, such as Spotify, have suffered data leaks in recent years. In December 2020, Spotify confirmed that an incident may have affected over 300,000 users’ email addresses, display names, passwords, genders and dates of birth.

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 by Uriel SC via Unsplash.com.

Update for 200 Million Breach

Update for 200 Million Breach

Our security teams have discovered that hackers stole the email addresses of more than 200 million Twitter users  and posted them on an online hacking forum. The Twitter breach origin date was July 2022. Data exposed includes name, phone number, email address and account holder user IDs.

We first reported the breach on December 6, 2022. It is highly recommended to add two-factor authentication. Please contact us if you need assistance.

There were no clues to the identity or the location of the hacker or hackers behind the breach. “It may have taken place as early as 2021, which was before Elon Musk took ownership of the company last year, explained Satter (Reuters News).” Learn more HERE.

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 courtesy of Bermix Studios via unspash.com.

FBI’s Vetted Threat Sharing Network Hacked

FBI’s Vetted Threat Sharing Network Hacked

Just recently, our security teams have discovered large data sets of compromised cyber elements on the Dark Web. The breached site is InfraGard.org, which is a partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and key members of the private sector for the protection of the United States critical infrastructure.

InfraGard members are in roles involved in both cyber and physical security at companies that manage most of the nation’s critical infrastructures, including drinking water, power utilities, communication and financial services firms, transportation and manufacturing companies, healthcare providers and nuclear energy firms.

The breach origin date is December 2022 and data exposed includes their members’ contact information, such as name, email and phone numbers. The FBI stated that “this is an ongoing situation” and that they are “not able to provide any additional information at this time.” Approximately 80,000 InfraGard members are impacted. Learn more HERE.

Guard Well Identity Theft Solutions exists to protect you, your family, and your employees from the damages of identity theft. It has been a pleasure protecting America’s workforce for the last decade. We look forward to many years and much more growth to come.

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 courtesy of Markus Spiske on Unsplash.com.