Christmas wishes


Just taking a moment to say thank to those who follow and have comments on  this blog.  I wish you all a very Merry Christmas.  May you be surrounded by the love of family and friends, not just today but throughout the coming year!

Time to lighten things up for Christmas


There are two central figures that represent Christmas, Santa Claus and the baby Jesus.  Both have been identity theft victims, at least in the movies. so since it is the holiday season, I thought I would focus on those movies and lighten things up.  Two of these movies are perfect for family viewing and many of you may have already watched them this year.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas

We all remember Dr Suess’ classic book.  The Grinch is a well known holiday classic, and I really prefer my Grinch animated with Boris Karloff reading the story.  The Grinch had a nefarious plan that hinged on stealing Santa’s identity so that he could steal all the Christmas cheer from Whoville.

The Nightmare Before Christmas

All Jack really wanted was a little love.  Seeing how well loved Santa was, Jack decided to take his place.  Eventually Jack learned that he was loved too for different reasons.

The Life of Brian

The Life Of Brian 3 Wise Men

This one is strictly for the adults and some people may find it a bit offensive but after all it is Monty Python.  Poor Brian comes into the world mistaken for the Messiah.  To Brian’s credit he did spend his life trying to convince people that he was not the Messiah.

These three movies just go to prove one thing, no one is safe from identity theft.

Sorry! No Partridge in a pear tree here


Identity thieves are very generous during the holidays and they will give you all sorts of ‘gifts’ you really don’t want.  Identity theft will be rampant.  Are you protected?  I am with my LegalShield membership.

The Twelve Days of Christmas

  as performedby the Identity Thief Mass Choir

On the Twelfth day of Christmas an identity thief gave to me twelve felony convictions

On the Eleventh day of Christmas an identity thief billed to me, eleven cases of malt liquer,

On the Tenth day of Christmas an identity thief gave to me, ten STD’s,

On the Ninth day of Christmas an identity thief gave to me, nine illegitimate children,

On the Eighth day of Christmas an identity thief billed to me, eight tickets to New York,

On the Seventh day of Christmas an identity thief billed to me, seven seaside timeshares,

On the Sixth day of Christmas an identity thief gave to me, six speeding tickets,

On the Fifth day of Christmas an identity thief gave to me, five DUIs!

On the fourth day of Christmas an identity thief billed to me, four pairs of shoes,

On the third day of Christmas an identity thief billed to me, three video games,

On the second day of Christmas an identity thief billed to me two PS3s,

On the first day of Christmas an identity thief billed to me, a bottle of Dom Perignon!

Goodbye Black Friday, Hello Cyber Monday


So you made it through Black Friday, that madness is over for another year.  Now it’s time for the Cyber Monday madness.  Although you don’t have to worry about being in the middle of a beat down over a Barbie, Cyber Monday carries it’s own perils and pitfalls.

Cyber Monday has developed into the biggest online shopping day and scammers will be setting up traps for the unwary.  Online shoppers get caught every year in a multitude of scams from simple online Phishing schemes to flat out thefts.  So when you jump into the online shopping, be aware!  Some of the things to look out for:

 

Spoofing of retail websites

Spoofing is not new.  It has been around for a bit.  Have you ever gotten an e-mail from E-bay saying that you need to update your account?  That email probably had E-bay’s logo and may have even had an attached link that looked legitimate.  That is what spoofing is, imitating a reputable website.  When you go to this spoofed site and input your personal information, identity thieves now have everything that they need to steal your identity.

With online shopping it’s the same thing.  The thieves set up a site that looks like Sears and may even have Sears in the web address.  But it’s not Sears you are giving your information to, it’s an identity thief.

 

Sharing of unknown links

We all like to  share good deals right?  So it stands to reason that our friends would share great deals with us.  We also trust our friends so we don’t really think when we get that message on Facebook about the free computer our friend got as a part of a ‘Holiday promotion’.  Social networks get hacked.  That link that your friend shared with you is not from your friend at all.  It is from some scammer phishing for information.

 

The too good to be true deal

While Walmart may have been selling the next big thing dirt cheap and way under cost for a couple of hours on Black Friday,  they are making up their loss through all of the other sales that they are making.  You don’t walk into a store and see that as the regular price.  Finding items at unreasonably low prices should set off warning bells.  Yes you might just find a Rolex discounted 25% on a website.  But when it is being sold for a 10th of the price?  Can you say hot watch?

Things to be aware of

Like anything else staying safe while shopping online is mostly common sense.  Here are some tips to protect yourself.

  • Do not enter any of your information on unsecured websites.  Always check the address bar.  The page url should start with “HTTPS://”
  • Confirm website urls whenever possible.  If you plan to shop at a major retailer online, pick up the phone and call them to get the correct url.  Many scam sites will use the retailer domain name and then change the .com to .net or .org.
  • Be aware of the almost correct url.  Scammers will create a domain name close enough to seem legitimate.  For example if they want to spoof say Starbucks and Starbucks url is starbucks.com, the scammer may use starbuckscoffee.com
  • Before clicking on any link, hover your cursor over that link.  At the bottom of the screen it will show you the web address that you are actually going to.  If the link is cloaked, for example it shows http://www.shortlink.com/identifying code your safest bet is not to click it.   Legitimate retailers have no need or desire to hide themselves.

Be aware of Knockoffs

If it is a designer item or  hot brand name, the knockoffs are out there.  Everything from Sports Jerseys, to hand bags, to shoes to perfume have been copied.  So the odds are that cheap Louis Vuitton bag is nothing more than a cheap imitation.  Many companies sell admittedly fake imitations of the real things and they are marked as imitations or reproductions.

The only way you can be sure that you are actually ordering the real thing is to order it from and authorized retailer or the designer’s own website if they have one.  For example you can go to Louis Vuitton’s website look up the authorized retailer’s.  If that website is not an authorized retailer, they are not selling the real thing.

Be aware, use your common sense and research before you buy.  Protect your identity and avoid scams this holiday season.

 

Will you become a victim?


Thanksgiving is practically here and that means the busiest in store shopping day is here, Black Friday.  Most of us will be hitting the malls, shopping centers and department stores around the country.  We will not be alone, identity thieves and thieves in general will also be out there hitting the the same places that we hit.  Black Friday is a perfect time for low-tech gathering of personal  information.

Don’t become complacent thinking that Identity thieves need some complex convoluted scheme to steal your identity.  Low tech methods work quite well, and on Black Friday you need to be on alert for these low tech methods.

Pickpockets and purse snatchers

These are very old school methods of gaining your information (and whatever cash you have in your wallet), but it still works.  Especially in a large crowd.  A thief can snatch your wallet or purse and disappear into a crowd in a matter of seconds.  Ladies, we all have a very personal safe that goes with us where ever we go.   It’s called a bra and it’s perfect for stashing cash, credit cards and your ID.  Gentlemen, forget the back pocket.  A thief with a razor can slice your back pocket off and be gone with your wallet in the blink of an eye.  Put your wallet in your front pocket.

Shoulder Surfers

Shoulder surfers can have a field day in a crowd.  With people all jammed together in a limited space; it’s normal that people will be close, bump into you etc.  A shoulder surfer can memorize all they need to steal your identity in a matter of seconds.  If you are filling out a paper check or using a debit card with a PIN be aware of anyone who seems to be overly interested in you.

ATM Awareness

ATMs can be tampered with.  Before using any ATM give it a quick once over if anything at all looks out of place-use another ATM.   Identity thieves have several methods of tampering with ATMs from Attaching skimming machines that record the information on your card, to using X-ray film to steal your actual card.  Look for items around the ATM that do not belong.  These items may be concealed cameras placed there to record your PIN when you use your card.  With the information on the skimming machine and the information from the camera a thief can clone your card.  If you put your card in a machine and it does not work or respond, feel around the card slot, you might just find that a thin strip of X-ray film has been attached to the card slot.  Whatever you do, don’t accept the help of the ‘good’ Samaritan.  That person’s goal is to get your PIN number and once you leave thinking that the machine has ‘eaten’ your card, the helpful stranger will remove your card and use it.

General tips

Think safety and crime prevention.  Use common sense crime prevention tips.

  • Before you head off to the store, empty your purse or wallet of anything that you do not need.  Don’t carry all of your credit cards with you and definitely leave the Social Security card at home.
  • Make sure that you have nothing of interest visible inside your car, including those gifts you just purchased.  Lock them in the trunk if possible.
  • If you feel something is suspicious, report it to the store manager.
  • If you are the victim of a crime, report it to the police.

Understand that identity theft spikes during the holidays just like burglaries and other crimes.  Be aware that everyone is at high risk and have your response plan in place before it happens.  LegalShield can help.

Dude! Surf’s almost up!


Halloween is here,  Turkey Day will be here before you know it and then surf’s up!  The Holiday season is prime time for identity thieves to go surfing.  Mailbox Surfing that is.

Your mail can be a goldmine for identity thieves and the Holidays simply means bonus time!  Millions of items containing Personally Identifiable and Non-Public Information are placed in the mail each day.  Bank Statements, utility and credit card bills, applications and government issued correspondence arrive in mailboxes each day.  We write out checks and mail information ourselves and identity thieves know this.  That roadside mailbox is just waiting for them to come along and harvest what is in it.

During the Holidays they can make an even bigger haul from Christmas cards and gifts we mail out.  So what to do to lower your risk of identity theft by mail?

The safest way to protect your incoming mail is to rent a Post Office box.  Your mail remains secured in your PO Box until you retrieve it.  Many newer communities have turned to this option, having a bank of locked mailboxes in a central location as opposed to roadside mail boxes.

Protecting your outgoing mail is also pretty simple.   Treat that roadside mailbox like the threat that it is, don’t put anything into it.  Take your outgoing mail to the post office or one of those blue United States Postal Service mailboxes.

And a tip for protecting that holiday mail:

Send all valuables (including Checks, Money orders and Gift Cards) by Certified mail with a return receipt.  This way the mail is hand delivered to the address and someone at the address must sign for it.

Lets Give the Mailbox Surfers something that they don’t want this holiday season, a wipeout.