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How to Protect Yourself Against Identity Theft (Part 3)

by Sergio Mariaca on Dec 16, 2016 9:44:29 AM |Share:

financial security identity theft

photo-1449960132599-0ab49fff5d9a (1).jpgChristmas season seems to be starting earlier and earlier each year. Long gone is the era of waiting until Black Friday for Christmas sales, decorations, or carols playing over the radio. Cyber Monday is now another day of spending in November. As a financial advisor, my goal is to help you avoid any disasters that might negatively affect your financial situation. With Christmas shopping season beginning earlier each year, I feel it is appropriate to alert you to potential scams you may encounter this year.

Phishing Scams – A phishing scam is when a scammer sends out an email posing as a legitimate company claiming there is some issue or error. The email will then either ask directly for personal information or provide a link to what appears to be a legitimate website, claiming that they need your personal information to resolve the issue.

During the holiday season, the twist on this scam may include individuals posing as shipping companies or online retailers, asking for personal information to resolve a shipping error. Their goal is to get personal information from people who are worried their online purchases won’t ship in time for Christmas. Another holiday flavor to this scam is individuals asking for charitable donations posing as a legitimate organization, hoping to cash in on your holiday generosity.

Microsoft® offers the following tips on how to prevent identity theft from phishing scams: *

  • Don't click links in email messages.
  • Type addresses directly into your browser or use your personal bookmarks.
  • Check the site’s security certificate before you enter personal or financial information into a website.
  • Don’t enter personal or financial information into pop-up windows.
  • Keep your computer software current with the latest security updates.

Text Message Scams – Also called “smishing,” or SMS phishing, works very similarly to regular phishing. Scammers send out texts asking, for example, for your PIN to reactivate your debit card or to cancel some trial of a service to avoid charges. With cell phones being a popular Christmas gift these days, it may be time to discuss these types of scams with any children you may have at home.

To avoid this type of scam, on top of Microsoft’s tips, don’t respond to any texts from numbers you don’t recognize, and alert your wireless provider to any suspicious texts.

Gift Card Scams – With this scam thieves will go into retailers and find gift cards that are yet to be purchased. They write down the numbers to the gift cards and track them electronically until they are purchased. Once activated upon purchase, the scammer will drain the funds leaving the gift card empty for its rightful owner. To avoid this scam, avoid purchasing gift cards that have either damaged or no packaging. If you feel uncomfortable buying a gift card you find in a store, you can always ask the staff if they have any in the back that haven’t been accessible to the public. Also, to further protect yourself, avoid buying gift cards from third party vendors you aren’t familiar with.

Fake Coupons – With everyone trying to save a little money on their Christmas shopping, coupons can be a handy resource. Unfortunately, there are scammers who set up websites that provide fake coupons in order to steal personal information. Be wary of websites offering coupons or discounts to third parties in exchange for personal information.

Counterfeit Gifts – Just as everyone is trying to save money with coupons, people are also on the hunt for deep discounts. Another scam to avoid this year is the sale of counterfeit goods. If this year’s newest smartphone or gadget is being sold for a price that seems too good to be true, it probably is! To avoid this type of scam, do your research on how to identify authentic goods, or purchase these items directly from the manufacturers.

This time of year is meant to be filled with giving and good cheer. Let’s keep it that way by protecting ourselves from unscrupulous individuals using the festivities as a guise for their scams. I hope these tips will keep you and your family safe during the holiday season.

 

 

How to Protect Yourself Against Identity Theft (Part 2)

by Sergio Mariaca on Dec 12, 2016 2:01:15 PM |Share:

financial security identity theft

incomestrategies.jpg

Imagine this scenario. You get an email that appears to be from your bank. You open it and read a message riddled with misspelled words that direct you to “click the link below.” You click on the link, and are taken to a page that looks almost exactly like the website you’re used to visiting … almost.

You’ve been phished.

Hopefully  this scenario has never happened to you. Or if it has, you recognized the warning signs and knew to stay away. Unfortunately, many people don’t recognize those warning signs, and fall prey to a particularly insidious form of Internet fraud called phishing.

Phishing is defined as “the creation of email messages and Web pages that are replicas of existing, legitimate sites and businesses. These Web sites and emails are used to trick users into submitting personal, financial, or password data. These emails often ask for information such as credit card numbers, bank account information, Social Security numbers, and passwords that will be used to commit fraud.”1 A play on the word “fishing,” (with regular people as the prey, and fake emails/web sites as the bait), the crooks behind phishing like to target the following areas:

  • Retail/Service – 29.37%
  • Payment Services – 25.13%
  • Email – 12.39%
  • Social Networking – 6.43%
  • Other – 26.68%

People who fall for these scams are often duped into giving out sensitive information, like their Social Security numbers, account passwords, credit card numbers, or even bank PIN numbers. Or, they may be directed to sites that proceed to install malicious software onto their computer or mobile device. Either way, phishing poses a major threat to your finances, your identity, or your data.

 Thankfully, phishing is easy to avoid if you follow a few common-sense rules:

  • Legitimate banks, retailers, and social media sites should never ask for your personal information via email. If you receive a message from someone asking for this info, assume it’s a scam.
  • Furthermore, as a general rule of thumb, do not reply to any message, electronic or otherwise, that requests your personal information.
  • Never use links in an email to connect to a website. Open a new browser window and type the site address in directly.
  • Always double-check the URL of any site you intend to visit. Some thieves set up sites with URLs that look very similar to a legitimate site.
  • For example, “amzon.com” instead of “amazon,” or “facebok.com” instead of “facebook.” You get the idea.
  • When doing business online, look at each website’s address. Secure websites should have a small symbol of a lock next to their URL, or the letters https (instead of merely http) at the beginning of the address. Both the lock and the letter “s” indicate that the site has been verified as secure.
  • Also, learn to recognize what common phishing messages look like. There are often a few telltale signs:

Dear Costumer,

We have recieved notice that your identity is not secure! This could put your account in danger. To register for a higher lvel of security, simply:

  1. Click the link below to open a secure portal to our site
  2. Confirm your the owner of the account by answering a few simple questions If you do not comply with these instructions in 7 days we have no choice but to permanently delete your account.

Sincerely,

Your Bank, Privacy Division

The warning signs aren’t hard to spot. Look for misspelled words (costumer, recieved, lvel, etc.), links to click on (“Click the link below”), threats (“If you do not comply”), and references to a well-known business or organization. I hope you found this information valuable. Just remember that by keeping your eyes open and remembering a few common-sense rules, you can protect yourself, your loved ones, and your data from phishing scams.

How to Protect Yourself Against Identity Theft (Part 1)

by Sergio Mariaca on Dec 7, 2016 9:40:06 AM |Share:

financial security identity theft

incomestrategies.jpg

Many things have changed over the last couple of decades; some things for the better, others for the worse. Credit and debit cards have made it easier to pay for your purchases, but they’ve also made it easier for hackers and con artists to get the information they need to steal your identity. This is especially true when paying for goods and services over the internet.

The scariest thing? Most people don’t know they’re a target until it’s too late.

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to protect your identity. The first step is to recognize the most important tools you have to combat identity theft.

Awareness and Knowledge

 Identity thieves target many different types of people, but the older you get, and the closer you are to retirement, the higher up their list you go. Why? Because older adults frequently have access to cash they’ve been saving up for their entire lives. Many older adults also have great credit that they’ve been building up over a long period of time. Additionally, some people value their independence so much they are hesitant to report that their finances or identity have been compromised, fearing their relatives will think they can’t handle things on their own.

So how can you protect yourself and your loved ones? Here are some other steps you can take:

  • Do not publish the date of birth and death in obituaries. Dishonest people can use that information to obtain a death certificate, which usually includes the social security number for the deceased individual.
  • Don’t make impulsive decisions based on fear. If you receive an email or phone call stating that it’s from your bank or the government, and that you’re in trouble, look into it before providing the sender with any personal information. Typically, the government will not contact you by email or phone. They will contact you by mail. Your bank will never ask you to provide information through email either. If you’re concerned about the credibility of a call or email from your bank, contact the nearest branch and ask them.
  • If someone contacts you saying they’re a relative in trouble and need your help, ask them something that only your relative would know. Or ask a trick question that reveals they’re lying, such as “How’s your dog Scruffy? Did he get better?” when you know that relative doesn’t have a dog. If they say “Oh he’s doing much better,” then you know they’re a fraud and you should immediately hang up.
  • Keep all personal documents in a safe place. Don’t carry them around with you, especially not your Social Security card.
  • Don’t open emails from senders you don’t recognize. These can be disguised as special offers for things such as “weight loss,” miracle cures for different ailments, or products at unbelievably low prices. Scammers keep coming up with new subjects to hook you. These are just a few things that can help you avoid becoming a victim of finance or identity fraud. Also, there are companies that can help you stay protected and informed. Here’s a link to a site that lists the top rated companies that can help to defend your identity: top10identitytheftprotection.com. I hope you found this information valuable.

 

Sources:

 http://www.bankrate.com/finance/retirement/what-retirees-need-to-know-about-id-theft-5.aspx - 7/15/15

http://blog.protectmyid.com/2010/02/24/retirees-prime-targets-for-identity-theft/ - 7/15/15

 http://www.lifelock.com/education/children-family-home/seniors-risk-id-theft/ - 7/15/15

http://blog.equifax.com/retirement/top-five-scams-that-target-retirees/ - 7/15/15

https://www.fbi.gov/scams-safety/fraud/seniors - 7

Don't Be a Victim in Retirement

by Sergio Mariaca on Dec 6, 2016 2:47:01 PM |Share:

financial security identity theft

photo-1464095718138-d9c47312eac5-1.jpg

 Many things have changed over the last couple of decades; some things for the better, others for the worse.  Credit and debit cards have made it easier to pay for your purchases, but they’ve also made it easier for hackers and con artists to get the information they need to steal your identity. This is especially true on the Internet.

Most people don’t know they’re a target until it’s too late.

Fortunately, there are things you can do to make sure your identity is protected.  The most important tools you can use to your advantage are awareness and knowledge.

Identity thieves target different types of people, but retirees are high on their list.  Why?  Because they frequently have access to cash they’ve been saving up for their entire lives.  Many retirees also have great credit that they’ve been building up over a long period of time.  Additionally, seniors can value their independence so much they are hesitant to report that their finances or identity have been compromised, fearing their relatives will think they can’t handle things on their own.

As you near retirement, you’re probably wondering, “How can I protect myself and loved ones?” Here are some things you can do:

Ÿ Do not publish the date of birth and death in obituaries.  Dishonest people can use that information to obtain a death certificate, which usually includes the social security number for the deceased individual.

Ÿ Don’t make impulsive decisions based on fear.  If you receive an email or phone call stating that it’s from your bank or the government, and that you’re in trouble, look into it before providing the sender with any personal information.  Typically, the government will not contact you by email or phone.  They will contact you by mail.  Your bank will never ask you to provide information through email either.  If you’re concerned about the credibility of a call or email from your bank, contact the nearest branch and ask them.

Ÿ If someone calls you saying they’re a relative in trouble and need your help, ask them something that only your relative would know.  Or ask a trick question that reveals they’re lying, such as “How’s your dog scruffy?  Did he get better?” when you know that relative doesn’t have a dog.  If they say “Oh he’s doing much better,” then you know they’re a fraud and you should immediately hang up.

Ÿ Keep all personal documents in a safe place.  Don’t carry them around with you, especially not your Social Security card.

Ÿ Don’t open emails from senders you don’t recognize.  These can be disguised as special offers for things such as “weight loss” miracle cures for different ailments, or products at unbelievably low prices.  Scammers keep coming up with new subjects to hook you.

These are just a few things that can help you avoid becoming a victim of finance or identity fraud.  Also, there are companies that can help you stay protected and informed.  Here’s a link to a site that lists the top rated companies that can help to defend your identity: www.top10identitytheftprotection.com.

I hope you found value in this information.  Feel free to share it with your loved ones so they may stay informed as well.

Don’t become a victim!  Take a proactive approach to protect yourself, your family, and your retirement.

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