Last week Carlos Rodriguez Sr., also known as “Il Padrino” was sentenced to more than ten years in prison for his role in masterminding a nationwide countefeit check cashing identity theft scheme by which he and his cohorts stole more than 1.8 million dollars from unsuspecting victims. Rodriguez bought large numbers of names, dates of birth, addresses and Social Security numbers of bank customers on the Dark Web, that part of the Internet where criminals buy and sell goods and services. He then used this information to access his victims’ bank accounts and would change the contact information phone number on the account to one controlled by him. He also downloaded copies of checks signed by his victims to make the counterfeit checks he created look more legitimate. After creating the counterfeit checks, he recruited accomplices to cash the checks at banks in Florida, Californcia, Texas and Utah.
Regardless of how good you are at taking the steps necessary to protect you from identity theft, we all are at tremendous risk of identity theft because we are only as safe as the places with the weakest security that have our personal information. Data breaches are at record levels and I have been predicting for months that the numbers of data breaches will skyrocket in the upcoming months as we become aware of more data breaches accomplished by identity thieves exploiting the vulnerabilities in the corporate networks of companies with large numbers of employees working remotely.
Although you cannot protect yourself completely, there are a lot of things you can do to protect yourself from becoming a victim of identity theft by identity thieves like Carlos Rodriguez Sr.. In regard to your online banking, make sure you have a strong and unique password for your online banking account. If you use the same password for all of your accounts and the security of that password is compromised such as through a data breach, all of the accounts that use that same password would be in jeopardy. Also use a nonsensical security question. Many banks use security questions such as what is your mother’s maiden name which ask for information readily available to an identity thief on the Internet. However, there is no rule that requires you to give an honest answer to your security question. I suggest, for instance, that you use a nonsensical answer such as “Firetruck” to the question of your mother’s maiden name. It is silly enough for you to remember and no identity thief will be able to guess it. Finally, you should use dual factor authentication on all of your accounts where you can. Taking these steps will dramatically increase your safety and security.
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As we start the new year, I have a favor to ask of Scamicide readers. Please urge at least one of your friends and family to subscribe to Scamicide.com. There is no cost and it is easy to do. Scamicide subscribers get the very latest important information about scams, identity theft and cybersecurity which can go a long way toward keeping you safe from these threats. The more people we can help, the better. Best wishes for a safe and healthy new year.