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3 Truly “Free” Privacy Protection Resources

privacylostThe fact is…. we live in a post-privacy era!

Daily headlines around the world confirm our greatest fears about privacy being an “endangered species”.  As most folks who reside in cyber-space already know, privacy as we knew it is dead!

Data breaches including Anthem, Sony, Home Depot, Target, JP Morgan/Chase, Uber and the U.S. Defense Department, remind us that even those with virtually unlimited financial resources cannot contain this fire.

These breaches leak our vital information and place it into the hands of fraudsters around the globe. The risks are often referred to as “asymmetrical”, because our exposure is much greater than an anonymous thief’s chances of getting caught.

Open source software and NSA oversight have left privacy advocates gasping for air in search of our long lost right to God-given privacy. Even Adam and Eve had fig leaves and loin cloths, but because of the delicate balance between privacy and security, our modern back doors are open and the front doors are open too!

Here are 3 terrific free privacy protection resources which the unscrupulous “privacy peddlers” can’t charge for. Continue Reading…

‘Let Us Prey’: Con Men Infiltrate Obamacare Marketplace

AlertEKGThe cloud of disappointment, mismanagement and controversy surrounding the roll-out of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act provides a perfect cover for criminal mischief.

Honest magicians and dishonest con artists, both instinctively know that when we focus on one hand, they can accomplish their “business” with the other hand. It’s called misdirection.

The New York Times recently published a piece entitled: Con Men Prey on Confusion Over Health Care Act. The story uncovers multiple sketchy encounters, including a Southern California woman who had a con man visit her home in a brazen healthcare fraud scheme.

“Madeleine Mirzayans was fooled when a man posing as a government official knocked on her door. Barbara Miller and Maevis Ethan were pitched by telemarketers who claimed to work for Medicaid. And Buford Price was almost caught by another trap: websites that look official but are actually bait set by fly-by-night insurance operators.” Continue Reading…

Fighting Scary Cyber Threats

PumpkinThis is that time of year when we turn to fall sweaters, football and pumpkin pie.

Its also time to get off the couch for a moment and recalibrate our Cyber security awareness meter. The bad guys are out in force and they are organized, ruthless and hungry.

They attack on every front and in every sector. Industry, government, large businesses, small businesses, students, families or any target connected to “the grid” is open game.

Once again, the Department of Homeland Security kicked off their annual Cyber Security Awareness Month to help raise awareness in this cyber community we have all become attached to and somewhat dependent upon.

“Everyone has to play a role in cybersecurity. Constantly evolving cyber threats require the engagement of the entire nation — from government and law enforcement to the private sector and most importantly, the public. Cyberspace is woven into the fabric of our daily lives and the world is more interconnected today than ever before. We enjoy the benefits and convenience that cyberspace provides as we shop from home online, bank using our smart phones, and interact with friends from around the world through social networks.” Continue Reading…

Why Red Flags Rules Matter To You

iStock_000002123532XSmallSoon, you’ll be in the market for another vehicle. Whether it’s a practical vehicle for the family’s summer vacation, sending the kids off to college with reliable wheels, or that little red Porsche you’ve eyed for years, we’re all “in the market” now and then.

As a result of financing or leasing a vehicle, your non-public personal information is put “out there” making the risk of identity theft a very real concern. The privacy risks and realities of financial transactions are real and cost consumers and business billions of lost dollars each year.

In 2007, Congress and federal banking regulators created the Red Flags Rule. Again in 2010, they enacted new legislation narrowing the definition of “a creditor”,  and recently updated a list of over 30 recommended practices (Red Flags) to safeguard consumer information.

Auto dealerships are among those financial institutions that are required by the Federal Trade Commission to protect your private information by implementing the Red Flags rules. What are they looking out for? Continue Reading…

Guard Your Web Surfing From Prying Eyes…3 Simple Tricks

Pryingeye.jpgWe all know by now that the FBI, the National Security Agency and British intelligence are tapping into the data silos of nine leading U.S. internet companies which include: Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Pal Talk, YouTube, Skype, AOL, and Apple.

Exactly twelve years ago, Brad Templeton from the Electronic Frontier Foundation rather prophetically pointed to the sort of privacy scandal (like the one involving the NSA, PRISM and Verizon) that we read in the headlines daily. In 2001, Templeton wrote:

” The real danger comes because when we feel we are under surveillance by the government, by strangers, by our neighbors, or by faceless databases we feel less free.”

According to the EFF, despite President Obama’s recent claim that the government is only sifting through so-called metadata, this data can still reveal a boatload about your movements, your interests and your problems.

Its encouraging and noteworthy that Twitter has been singled out as a positive “exemplar of privacy protection” according to an article in the Washington Post.

So here are 3 simple things you can do to help keep your personal online habits (part of what I refer to in my book as your “Habit Habitat”), as private as possible. Continue Reading…

3 Reasons To Care About CISPA

CapitolDomeAny current legislation being debated in Congress which affects the handling of our private information, deserves attention.

The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) has recently passed the House and now awaits Senate approval. Under the provisions of CISPA, U.S. companies could hand over all of your private data  to the government, all in the name of national defense.

This information sharing would be done in the interest of “national security” and the justification for CISPA, is to help our government fight back against foreign hackers like China and Iran.

According to US News and World Report:

“A very long list of major companies – including AT&T, Verizon, Intel, HP, Time Warner Cable, IBM, Comcast, McAfee, Oracle, Google and Facebook – like CISPA because it lets them off the hook. So when Anonymous called for a blackout to protest CISPA, it fell on deaf ears to the big tech, Internet and cable companies responsible for vast swaths of the Internet.”

Three reasons you should care: Continue Reading…

5 Tips To Avoid Tax Scammers in 2013

scamTax time us upon us once again, and the tax scammers are out in force!

This is certainly the season to be on the lookout for scams and schemes which offer to help you reduce or eliminate your tax debt.

Many consumers are unaware that the IRS has a division called the Taxpayer Advocate Service. This is a division within the IRS that is designed to assist consumers who have trouble getting certain tax issues resolved with the IRS. One of the tough issues that could complicate your relationship with the IRS is tax-fraud.

Tax related identity theft places an unusual burden on both the taxpayer and the IRS:

According to the IRS’s Taxpayer Advocate Service:

“Resource constraints also are limiting the IRS’s ability to assist victims of tax-related identity theft. Tax-related identity theft typically arises when an identity thief uses the Social Security number of another person to file a false tax return with the intent of obtaining an improper refund. Identity theft can impose a significant burden on its victims, whose legitimate refund claims are blocked and who often must spend months or longer trying to convince the IRS that they are, in fact, victims and then working with the IRS to untangle their account problems.”

Here are 5 scams to watch out for this tax season. Continue Reading…

ID Thieves Rob Treasury Blind

News flash…..Over five billion of our tax dollars are not hard at work, they’re missing!

Alarming details surfaced this week about a report from the Treasury Inspector General For Tax Administration involving massive tax-refund fraud. Watching a flurry of reports come across the newswires about this travesty has been dizzying and alarming. U.S. taxpayers have a right to expect our legislators to weigh in on this one.

It seems that the government is aware of certain mailing addresses in the U.S where billions of dollars (that’s billions with a “b”) worth of refund checks generated by fraudulent tax-returns  have been mailed out. Sadly, many observers in the press are quietly reporting this story without the outrage and sense of personal and mutual financial loss that this debacle deserves. These are OUR tax dollars that have been stolen by modern day bank robbers/mail thieves.

We can only hope that the Feds throw as much energy and resources at bringing both current and future tax fraudsters to justice (and recovering OUR loot) as they do chasing the average Joe for his last hard-earned taxable dollar.

Continue Reading…

FBI Publishes Fraud Awareness Tips

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has just published an eye-opening list of well-known and commonly perpetrated scams from A-Z.

“Frauds from A to Z”,  can be found on the agency’s website. The list is extensive and the information is priceless.

Make yourself a strong cup of coffee, because this resource goes into detail about a very long list of financial scams that are commonly reported and analyzed by the FBI. The benefit to readers is obvious. Often it’s what we DON’T know that can hurt us the most.

Unless you have the time and interest to study these scams regularly, chances are you’ve never heard of the “Gameover Malware” Scam or the “Surrogacy” Scam. These are just two of the newest ways that clever con-artists separate the uninformed from their hard-earned money.

According to a recent article in Forbes: Continue Reading…

Who’s Afraid Of The Big Bad Wolf?

Ol’ Blue Eyes is back…. and he’s not Frank Sinatra.

In my last post, we discussed this wolf’s current barrage of savage and relentless attacks on private data repositories.

The crimes range from the theft of individual NPPI ( Non Public Personal Information), to raids on corporate data,  to the recent malicious hack into servers at the Central Intelligence Agency.

The culprits could basically be described and motivated in one of three ways:

  • Criminal tricks – Thieves
  • Juvenile kicks –  Hackers
  • Rogue politics –  Enemies

We went on to look at the observations of two of the world’s leading privacy/security thought leaders (Bruce Schneier and Mikko Hypponen) discovering that they not only acknowledge the on-going war, but they are eager to explain the modus operandi  and general motivation that drives each of these blood-thirsty intruders. Continue Reading…

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