Scam of the day – February 17, 2016 – Identity theft danger in vacation photos

At one time tourists were easy to spot with cameras in their hands and hanging on straps around their necks, but today, stand-alone cameras have largely been replaced by our smartphones with which we not only are able to take good photographs, but also do all manner of personal and financial transactions. This is very convenient for us all, but particularly for identity thieves who will linger in tourist spots and be ready to assist you by taking a picture of you and your family at popular tourist destinations.  The problem is that rather than take your picture, the criminal takes your smartphone and promptly runs away with it leaving you without a photograph and, more importantly without your phone, which may have stored large amounts of personal information that can be used by the thief for purposes of accessing your bank account or otherwise making you a victim of identity theft.

TIPS

Your mother was right when she told you not to trust strangers.  The best way to deal with a problem is to avoid it in the first place so don’t give your smartphone to a stranger to take your picture.  Some good smartphone security measures you should already be taking include setting up a strong password to unlock your smartphone and make sure that you have good anti-virus and anti-malware security software installed on your smartphone and constantly updated.  It also is a good idea not to store personal information on your smartphone.  Finally, there are a number of good apps that will help you remotely track your phone’s location as well as lock it and erase information remotely.  Here are links with more information about those apps for Android and iPhones.

http://www.ctia.org/your-wireless-life/consumer-tips/how-to-deter-smartphone-thefts-and-protect-your-data/anti-theft-protection-for-android-wireless-handsets

http://www.ctia.org/your-wireless-life/consumer-tips/how-to-deter-smartphone-thefts-and-protect-your-data/anti-theft-protection-for-ios-apple-wireless-handsets

Scam of the day – December 2, 2013 – Safe holiday shopping on your smartphone

More and more people are using their smartphones for online shopping and other financial transactions.  It is important to remember, however, that is just as important to use proper security precautions on your smartphone as you do with your computer, laptop or other electronic devices.  Theft of smartphones is a frequent occurrence, particularly during the holiday season.  If you have not protected your smartphone properly, all of the information stored on your smartphone becomes available to the identity thief who can use this information to make you a victim of identity theft.  Clicking on infected links or downloading attachments infected with malware can also cause your smartphone’s information to be turned over to an identity thief at your extreme peril.

TIPS

Start with the basics.  Make sure you have a complex password for your phone.  Too many people do not even use one.  Also, have your phone time out and locked after a period of time so that if your phone is stolen it will not readily be usable by a criminal stealing your phone.   In addition, you should make sure that you are using encryption software, anti-virus software and anti-malware software on your smartphone and keep these programs up to date with the latest patches.  Finally, only get your apps from legitimate sources, such as the Apple App store or Android Market.  Infected apps are a major source of identity theft.

Scam of the day – June 10, 2013 – Twitter introduces new security feature

Twitter is amazingly popular and anything that is popular is a target for identity thieves and scam artists.  Twitter accounts of high profile Twitter users such as the Associated Press have been hacked in great numbers recently.  In the case of the hacking of the Twitter account of the Associated Press, it resulted in a phony tweet that caused a serious although temporary drop in the stock market.  Keeping your Twitter account secure, however is important for even we private individuals who use Twitter.  Hacking into our Twitter account can also lead into hacking into the information contained in your computer or mobile device and can result in your becoming a victim of identity theft so it is very important to take some basic steps to protect yourself when using Twitter.

TIPS

Like so many other services, it is is important to have a complex password that cannot be readily deciphered by a hacker.  In “50 Ways to Protect Your Identity in a Digital Age” I go into detail about how to pick a complex password that is also easy to remember.  Adding just a few “***” or “$$$” at the end of an easy to remember password can provide a great deal of security.  Also, just a few days ago Twitter announced a new two-factor authentication feature that can dramatically increase your security when using Twitter.  This works by requiring you to not just enter your password, but also a six digit code which is sent to your device as a text message by Twitter in order to access your Twitter account.  Unfortunately, many people have chosen not to take advantage of this new feature.  Also, make sure that any apps you install are legitimate.  Tainted apps are a great source of malware used by hackers to not only get access to your Twitter account, but also all of the information in your computer, which can be used against you to make you a victim of identity theft.  Finally, make sure that your security software and anti-malware software is up to date.

Scam of the day – July 4, 2012 – Smartphone app scam

Every day there are new helpful apps for our smartphones and every day there are new corrupted apps that can lead to identity theft or worse.  A new scam now being done involves you downloading a popular app such as a video player, however the app is corrupted with malware that can take over your text messaging and without your being aware of it, start sending text messages to premium addresses that cost you money.  In addition, the malware can also, without your knowing it make calls to expensive pay-per-call numbers.  It is not until you get your first bill after your smartphone has been infected do you learn about the extra charges.

TIPS

Only download apps from legitimate app stores such as Apple’s App Store or Google’s Play Store.  Anytime you download an app from a source you are not sure of, you are taking a chance.  And even when you download an app from Apple’s App Store or Google’s Play Store, you may find yourself victimized because some of the more creative scammers will release a clean app through the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store, which will check out the app, but later the scammer will send you the malware in an update to your app.  The best thing you can do in addition to only downloading apps from legitimate companies is to make sure that you have good, effective security software installed on your smartphone.  You do it for your computer and your laptop so, make sure that you do it for your smartphone as well.

Scam of the day – April 29, 2012 – Mobile device hacking

Mobile device hacking whether it be your smart phone or iPad or other mobile device is turning into the new target of scammers and identity thieves and with good reason.  More and more people are using their mobile devices not just to store important personal information, but also to do financial transactions such as shopping and banking.  Unfortunately we have a perfect storm when it comes to hacking into portable devices.  They contain much information of value to scammers and identity thieves, they are easty to hack into and the owners of portable devices are not taking the steps to secure these devices as much as they would their computers.  Thus more and more people are having their information stolen and becoming victims of identity theft.

TIPS

Make the physical security of your mobile device a priority.  Theft of the devices is an easy way to fall victim to identity theft.  Also protect your portable device with hard to guess passwords.  Also use encryption software and make sure that your device is kept up to date with the latest security software patches.  Finally, one of the biggest threats to your security on your portable device comes from downloading malware through corrupted apps.  Only download apps from legitimate sources and only download apps you are sure are safe.  Finally, whenever you download an app, pay attention to the permissions and services that are part of the app agreement and do not give access to transmit data that is not necessary for the operation of the app.