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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…

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…

Latest Credit Card Breach Alert

Last week, MasterCard and VISA rang the alarm bell to warn banks and credit unions across the country about a new data breach discovered in March.

It seems that Atlanta-based credit card processor Global Payments Inc. has been the victim of a potentially significant data breach, reminiscent of the Heartland Payment Systems breach in 2009.

The size and scope remain to be seen in comparison to that of earlier massive breaches. Heartland’s breach reportedly exposed in excess of 130 million accounts, while the Global Payments breach is estimated (by company officials) to involve about 1.5 million accounts.

Global Payments Chairman and Chief Executive Paul Garcia says his company is ” working around the clock literally”, to get back into good standing with VISA, who removed the card processing company from their list of approved vendors.

Security experts warn that this breach is a reminder that no single layer of protection is sufficient to keep data safe from today’s most determined and sophisticated financial criminals. It is also sobering to keep in mind that many intruders are insiders who may already have full-access to consumer’s so-called KBA (knowledge-based authentication) secrets. Continue Reading…

STD’s and Your Private Data

I can’t recall if it was high school science class or later in life that I learned the health benefits of sexual abstinence before marriage.

“Wait, what do STD’s have to do with my private data?” Here is the connection.

The safety message to my generation was a stern warning and more than a few follow-up reminders that if we engaged in pre-marital relations, we were being physically linked to every person our partner had ever been with and so on and so on. Get the picture? And so on…..

The safety message in our digitally wired, overly connected world is that the financial institutions, internet providers, cell providers and other merchants we do business with are presumed to be keeping our data safe.

Despite our safety assumptions we are still “connected” to every other entity our vendors have done business with…despite their potentially nasty viruses, bad privacy-protection habits, corrupt employees and other menacing threats resulting from our mutual connectivity.

If you own a smart phone, a laptop, a Mac, a PC, a new iPad, a flash drive, a game console or just about any connected device, you’d better button up because you could easily catch more than a cold.

Even if you don’t own one of the devices just mentioned, guess where much your personal data resides? It resides on someone else’s device of course.

In an interview with the folks at Bank Info Security, The Identity Theft Resource Center reports: Continue Reading…

3 Ways Your Debit Card Can Hurt You

I have three quick questions for you to consider.

1.) Is a debit card your payment tool of choice?

2.) Is it financially irresponsible to use a credit card and incur fees and interest rates?

3.) Ask yourself: “How much am I responsible for if my card number is stolen and used, but I don’t report it promptly?”

In my book Identity Theft Secrets: Exposing The Tricks Of The Trade, I plead with readers to re-consider the dangers lurking in the shadows of the debit card jungle.

This week, an article at Bankrate.com convinced me that we need to re-examine the dangers of debit card dependency:

“Debit cards may look identical to credit cards, but there’s one key difference. With credit cards, users who spot fraudulent charges on their bill can simply decline the charges and not pay the bill.

On the other hand, debit cards draw money directly from your checking account, rather than from an intermediary such as a credit card company.

Because of that, even clear-cut cases of fraud where victims are protected from liability by consumer protection laws can cause significant hardship…Continue Reading…

Don’t Let Smartphone Hackers Ruin Your Holidays

According to data from Neilsen, approximately 38% of American adults now own an iPhone, Blackberry or other mobile device that runs the Android, Windows or Web OS operating system.

Your digital productivity is an attractive lure for financial attackers looking for easy pickings. The more connected you are, the more attractive your data and devices are. Your phone now contains your contact list, your documents, your photos, your history of conversations and a chance for a peek inside your wallet.

One persistent challenge is this; the security holes that leave you vulnerable, often go undetected and create a gaping hole in your mobile security armor.

Because many smartphone devices do double duty both at home and in the workplace, web security firms and company IT departments are hard at work guarding corporate
firewalls from the army of employees who innocently use their smartphones for both company business and personal pleasure.

What can the average smartphone user do to effectively fight the battle against financial data thieves during the busy holiday season? 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…