Posts tagged with "identity theft"

Computer Scams illustration done by Mina Tocalini of 360 MAGAZINE.

Craigslist Safety Tips

Safety Tips for Avoiding the Most Common Craigslist Scams

When you ask people if they’ve heard of Craigslist, the answer is invariable “yes.” Not surprising, as the selling portal is active in more than 70 countries. But what people don’t realize is that craigslist takes in over $1 Billion in revenue each year, but there are only 50 employees in the company! That’s due to the fact that the buyers and sellers on craigslist do all of the work.

But what most people don’t know is people use craigslist to scam others out of merchandise, data and money. Never has “buyer beware” been more important to follow than it has on craigslist. So what are some of the things that you need to watch out for? Let’s look at some of the most common scams.

Big Ticket – Big Scam

If you’re looking to purchase a big-ticket item, like a car or even a house, and the seller doesn’t ask for a credit check before engaging in a transaction, stop! The seller is just trying to get your financial information and will take your money and disappear. Buyer beware on this because without question, this is a scam.

Something to remember: the Internet and social media have the unique identity to mask the identity of the person you’re dealing with, so even though they give you a name or email address, you have to verify that it’s true. Start with Nuwber, an easy-to-use online tool that will verify the true identity of the person you’re communicating with, simply by entering his or her phone number or other pertinent info. Once you’ve received their true identity, if the person whom you’re dealing with is not who they say they are, end all communication immediately. The person is a cybercrook and scam artist and they’re only out to rob you anyway they can. 

Here’s another tip: if someone would prefer to call you rather than text or email you, watch out. They want your phone number in order to gain access to additional data and information, so never give out your number. Always use Google Voice to make or receive phone calls, because it lets you use a phone number that is totally different from your own. And always use craigslist’s proxy email to avoid revealing your own.

Avoid Wire Transfers

A sure giveaway to a scam is when the seller asks you to use a wire transfer to pay for merchandise. This provides an opportunity for the cybercrook to steal your financial data or your money without ever sending any merchandise! Avoid wire transfers. If you do want to use PayPal, use the website to get a link – never use one that’s provided to you by the seller. They’ll simply send you to a spoof site where they can access all the account information you enter.  

By following these simple tips to protect yourself, you should be able to buy and sell using craigslist without any problems.

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Hackers Covet Your Identity; 5 Ways To Thwart Their Efforts

Each day people take a virtual trip through the internet to do their banking, make hotel reservations, shop for a new car, or engage in a myriad of other activities important to them.

It’s so routine that it’s easy to forget that you need to be just as careful about protecting yourself on those virtual journeys as you would on an actual one. “Hackers are creative about dreaming up new ideas for stealing your identity, so it’s important that you stay vigilant even if you already have taken action to guard yourself and your data,” says Chris Hoose, an IT consultant who works with small businesses.

Hoose says a few steps you can take to protect your identity include:

Use a password manager. One problem with passwords is that people often use simple ones that are easy to remember, but also easy to hack. A password manager  provides an encrypted database where you can store unique, long, complex passwords for each of your online accounts, and access them when you need them. “With a password manager, you can have better passwords that are harder to hack, and you don’t have to memorize them,” Hoose says.

Do your online activities with a VPN. Worried that your online browsing will lead identity thieves right back to you? One solution, Hoose says, is a virtual private network (VPN), which lends you a temporary IP address and hides your true IP address from every website or email you connect with. “It also prevents the sites you visit from learning your physical location,” he says. “You just need to remember to connect to it when you want to use it.” A VPN usually costs about $40 to $50 a year, he says.

Be wary on social media. Most people check in on social media routinely to catch up on family news, connect with college buddies, or perhaps to share photos of a new puppy. Unfortunately, cyber thieves lurk in the background. “They know that social media platforms are an excellent source for personal information and information about your contacts, which makes identity theft that much easier for them,” Hoose says. To stay safe on social media, he suggests you check to see if you have already been compromised; avoid password reuse; update your security settings regularly; and limit your connections because the more you have, the more potential for a fraudulent or compromised account to send you a malicious link.

Keep tabs on your credit report. One way to make sure no one has taken on debt in your name, and damaged your credit in the process, is to request a full credit report from any of the three major agencies: Equifax, TransUnion and Experian. You can get a free copy from any of them through the site. Also, it might be time to get off the mailing list for all those credit offers you receive that say you are pre-approved. “Those offers are a gold mine for identity thieves,” Hoose says. You can opt out of pre-approved credit offers by visiting.

Be sure to install anti-virus/malware software. Your first and best line of defense against identity theft on your computer remains anti-virus software and anti-malware software, Hoose says. When choosing one, he suggests making use of the trial period most companies offer. “That way you can try them out and decide which one works best for you,” he says.

“The more people try to foil identity thieves, the more sophisticated those thieves seem to get in their methods,” Hoose says. “But by being watchful and attentive, you can stay safe and enjoy your time online.”

About Chris Hoose

Chris Hoose  s the president of Choose Networks, an IT consulting firm for small businesses. Hoose started the company in 2001 to give large-scale solutions and support to businesses that can’t afford their own in-house IT department. He earned a Master of Information Systems Management from Friends University.

Preventing Public Data Leaks

Protecting an individual’s identity from cyber thieves can be a monumental task, especially when thieves can gather information about someone by just using public data sources.

That’s why Rohit Chadha, associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science in the College of Engineering at the University of Missouri, is working with researchers at the University of Illinois-Chicago and the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign on a $1.2 million grant over 4 years from the National Science Foundation to study how to help prevent privacy leaks when there is a large amount of data that can be gathered publicly.

“Differential privacy is a technique invented about fifteen years ago that ensures when someone asks questions of online databases — census data, consumer trends or aggregated information such as salary range or average number of children of people living in a certain area — the privacy of a person’s digital records remains intact,” Chadha said. “You still want to be able to grant access to these inquires because the data is important for businesses, researchers and governments. On the other hand, you also want to be able to protect an individual’s privacy.”

By asking enough valid questions of different databases, cyber thieves can build enough of a person’s profile that they can use that information in nefarious ways. Chadha said researchers have already begun testing different methods to thwart cyber thieves trying to attempt this.

“The research community has been aware of the possibility of these attacks for some time,” Chadha said.

Chadha, along with Aravinda Sistla of University of Illinois-Chicago and Mahesh Viswanathan of University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and their teams will use the grant to verify the quality of the current methods being used and work to improve those methods as needed.

New Medicare Cards

Next week, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) will be automatically mailing new Medicare cards to more than 3.5 million people with Medicare in New York State.

People with Medicare in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Vermont will also be receiving their new card. People with Medicare in these states and New York, should receive their new card by the end of August and can begin using it right away.

Key features of the new card and rollout process:

  • Social Security Numbers have been replaced with new unique identifying numbers.
  • Social Security numbers are no longer on the new Medicare, helping protect people with Medicare from identity theft and CMS fight fraud.
  • The new Medicare card is free. Avoid scammers by knowing that CMS will not call people with Medicare asking for any personal information, your Social Security Number, bank information, or to pay for the new Medicare card.
  • People with Medicare can sign up for email notifications on when the new cards will be mailed to their area by going towww.medicare.gov/newcard.
  • There are no changes to Medicare benefits. Once you receive your New Medicare card, you should destroy your old Medicare card by shredding or cutting it up with scissors.

You can also access new Medicare card fact sheets, graphics, b-roll, images and other resources here.