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9 Steps To The Target Hack

TargetStore.jpgBlack Friday 2013 was the beginning of a crazy shopping season for consumers and hackers alike.

Consumers snapped up holiday shopping deals across the retail spectrum and hackers snapped up the data from credit card magnetic strips. A good time was had by all.

Security experts have now begun to piece together the identities and methods of the actors behind the Target breach.

The stolen data began popping up for sale in black market underground chat rooms almost immediately, just like fresh caught fish that needs to be purchased and consumed it before it begins to stink!

Fearless former Washington Post columnist Brian Krebs, was the first to report on the breach. Krebs has been infiltrating and reporting on criminal activities in underground online chat rooms since 2005.

According to Krebs:

“Key information that informs some of my best scoops is just as likely to come from people actively engaged in cybercrime as it is industry experts working to fight fraud. So, once again, a sincere thank you to all of my readers — lovers and haters alike.”

The investigators’ reports are in. I’m a risk management guy, not a computer engineer so here’s a layman’s list of 9 steps revealing: “How the attackers did it”. 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…

New Study Verifies Uptick In ID Theft

Upward TrendFor those who continue to ignore the threat of identity theft, listen up.  It’s getting serious. Really!

Not only is financial crime growing by leaps and bounds, but we are entering a new age of breaches, hacks, mischief-ware (great new word) and privacy vulnerability.

The once encouraging two-year downward trend has now dramatically reversed itself  and is headed into dangerous new territory according to the folks at Javelin Strategy and Research.

An unnerving 12.6 million Americans were victimized by ID Theft in 2012, up dramatically from 2011. New account fraud made up the largest percentage of reported crimes, by targeting the personal information of victims and opening new credit cards and other kinds of loans. 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…

Why Seniors Are Big ID Theft Targets

Grandma and Grandpa are vulnerable to many strains of financial crime, but not because they’re senile or clueless. Quite the opposite really.

According to a 2011 report from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, identity theft is rising among those ages 50 and up. Identity thieves target seniors for selfish financial reasons and their motives are quite clear.

Do you remember the famous quote by the notorious bank robber Willie Sutton? When asked why he robbed banks he answered “Because that’s where the money is!”

Not only are seniors more likely to enjoy the  peace of mind that comes with financial stability, they are also more likely to have better credit, higher credit limits, more cash in savings and the luxury of home ownership and equity. It all adds up to an attractive lure in the eyes of the ever-watchful criminal underworld. Continue Reading…

Time To Deck The Halls….With Fraud Awareness!

Lets examine 5 strategies which can help guard against holiday fraud this season.

The so-called Super Committee (Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction) just announced that they are unable to agree on the terms of a mandatory $1.2 trillion-dollar deficit reduction  plan. Are you wondering how their failure could possibly affect your gift-giving this year?

The stalemate in Washington, DC may put a damper on our already fragile economy, so protecting your hard earned assets and reputation are worthy goals this holiday season. This is also the time of year when record numbers of consumers  prepare to snag Black Friday and other seasonal shopping deals in malls and online.

With much at stake and our resources stretched like never before, fraudsters are licking their chops as they await the hoards of often distracted and rarely cautious holiday deal-snatchers. The shopping, shipping and selection alone are enough to entice even the most frugal and inexperienced buyers this time of year.

So with shopping in sight and awareness in mind, lets examine 5 strategies that can help you Deter, Detect and Defend against fraudsters lurking behind the holiday tree. Continue Reading…

Three Privacy Reminders For 2011

Exhale. With the worst of the financial storms past us, we can finally breathe and begin to rebuild our financial fortifications.

One of the first pieces of business this year should be to put a few strategies in place to protect whats left of your assets and personal privacy. Unfortunately, the fraudsters are still in the game stronger than ever before, due to the relatively risk-free nature of modern financial crime.

The reality is that most financial crimes are under-reported and left unsolved due to a scarcity of investigative resources and the endless supply of fresh target information available to most criminals.

Here are three areas to watch in 2011 according to Bank Info Security:

1. Mobile Banking Risks

“Mobile phones used for banking are on the rise, but mobile security is proving increasingly challenging for banks and credit unions, as controls put in place to protect traditional online banking do not translate well when applied to mobile. Mobile banking applications from Bank of America, Chase, Wells Fargo and TD Ameritrade have all suffered from security flaws, and CitiGroup in 2009 noted vulnerabilities when it learned some banking apps stored sensitive user details in hidden files on smart phones.”

2. Social Networks and Web 2.0

“The connection between mobile phones and social media is growing, with Twitter and Facebook apps offered for mobile users. Institutions embracing mobile also are embracing social networking, says Rasmussen, Internet Identity’s chief technology officer. “With more banks on social networks, expect to see more fake sites using social networks, like Twitter and Facebook, to try and trick people into giving up vital personal information,” including banking login credentials and Social Security numbers, he says.”

3. Malware, Botnets and DDoS Attacks

“Distributed denial-of-service, or DDoS, attacks, as seen in the wake of the recent WikiLeaks incidents, are likely to increase. In fact, the WikiLeaks-inspired attacks against leading e-commerce sites have fueled interest among fraudsters, says RSA’s Rivner. Botnet operators now see opportunity for additional income.”

Smart phones, social networking and sustained attacks on closed systems, leave plenty of room for mischief in the coming year. Stay tuned for ways to short-circuit these uninvited cyber-guests in 2011 and beyond.

A High Value ID Theft Target

During a recent celebration,  I opened a gift that made me smile.  It was the new Robin Hood film starring Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett.

We all know the premise.  Robin Hood takes from the rich and gives to the poor. Unfortunately, not all thieves are so noble. Please read on.

The Orange County Business Journal and Forbes Magazine blogger Mark Lacter recently reported on a modern story based on the classic tale of a wealthy land owner who falls prey to a dastardly thief.  In this case, the alleged crook  Moundir Kamil, decided to keep $1.4 million in loot for himself after commandeering  a large IRS tax refund check. The wealthy land owner in our modern tale is billionaire California real estate mogul Donald Bren.

According to the Orange County Business Journal:

“News of the bizarre theft went on to get national exposure as questions arose about how a 40-something suspect—who listed his occupation merely as “smoke shop” operator and looks nothing like the 78-year-old Bren—could make off with the identity and money of OC’s most prominent businessman. The refund check Kamil allegedly stole was the result of overpayment of estimated quarterly taxes by Bren. When and how the suspect managed to get the check wasn’t stated in the initial complaint, nor is it mentioned in the government’s updated charges for Kamil.”

Although authorities have not disclosed how Kamil came into posession of the check, it is clear that he was somehow able to pass himself off as the victim. Not only did he deposit the loot into a newly opened bank account, he withdrew most of it before being captured.

Thanks to an eagle-eyed prison guard who recognized surveillance photos of the culprit, the fraudster’s identity was uncovered. It seems that Kamil had previously been caught stealing from the rich.  He is not just a disappointment to Robin Hood fans, worldwide.  The parole board has to be a little embarrased and disappointed to have released a 9 time bank robber back into the general population in Sherwood Forest.

A Pulitzer Winner’s Identity Theft Threat

You don’t have to be a Pulitzer Prize winning playwright to be a victim of identity theft, but there is clearly no immunity for brilliant writers either.

Educated at Brown University and the Yale School of Drama, Pulitzer winner Lynn Nottage was awakened in the early morning hours, to a flurry of alarming phone calls from concerned family and friends.

According to a report in the Brooklyn Eagle:

“Less than an hour before the call, someone hacked into Nottage’s three e-mail and Facebook accounts, sending out a cry for help after allegedly being mugged in a United Kingdom park. The e-mail blast, which said Nottage was writing “with tears in my eyes,” went out to every listserv she was on, totaling thousands of people, Nottage estimated.

This story resonates with me because our family got similar calls this past summer, from someone claiming that our son had been involved in an accident in Europe. The caller pleaded for money to be wired via Western Union.

Because our son had been to Europe just weeks earlier with a concert choir, our family members called us to make sure he was okay.  One particularly loving (but vulnerable) family member actually withdrew a very large sum of cash to wire overseas and thankfully called us prior to sending the money.

Commonly known as the “grandparents scam”, predators depend on  Continue Reading…