The Latest Government Imposter Scam

This week’s blog is adapted from a recent post by Consumer Education Specialist Lisa Lake on the FTC’s website OnGuardOnLine.

 

According to Lake, The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the FTC are trying to get the word about a scam with scammers posing as federal employees trying to get or verify personal information.

 

Sometimes, the caller asks you to verify your name, and then just hangs up. Other times, he or she might ask for detailed information — like the last digits of your Social Security or bank account number. Imposters might say they need this information to help you or a family member. But their real reason is to steal from you or sell your information to other crooks.

 

Your caller ID might even read “HHS Tips” or “Federal Government” when they call. The phone number could have the “202” Washington, DC area code, the headquarters for many federal agencies. The phone number may even be for a real government agency. But don’t be fooled: Scammers know how to rig their caller Ids to reflect false information.

 

So how can you tell the caller is an imposter?

  • The federal government typically will contact you by U.S. Mail first, not by phone or email.
  • Federal agencies will not demand personal informationlike your Social Security Number or bank account number over the phone. Also, just because the caller knows details about you, doesn’t mean she is trustworthy.
  • The caller typically asks you to send money – often via wire transfer, by using a prepaid debit card, or maybe by sending you a fake check to cash. Federal agencies will notask you to use any of these methods to send money for any

…and what should you do?

  • Hang up. Do not give out any personal or financial information.
  • Contact the Department of Health and Human Services OIGat 1-800-HHS-TIPS (1-800-447-8477) or spoof@oig.hhs.gov
  • File a complaint with the FTCat ftc.gov/complaint or 877-FTC-HELP.

 

For more on identity theft protection best practices please visit www.legalshred.com

Marking Data Privacy Day

This week’s blog is adapted from a recent post on the Homeland Security blog “Stop. Think. Connect.”

The posts reminds us that data privacy concerns are a real and rising issue for American citizens and businesses. According to a survey from the National Cyber Security Alliance, 92 percent of Internet users in the United States are worried about online privacy. Even more telling, 68 percent are more worried about not knowing how their personal information is collected online than they are worried about losing income.

Technology is rapidly advancing, creating extraordinary benefits and opportunities, but also creating new risks. Americans are routinely sharing more sensitive information online than ever before including banking information, personal health behaviors and habits, and physical location data. Unfortunately, companies are also routinely experiencing data breaches, which can potentially expose the sensitive personal information consumers readily share. Just as quickly as technology advances, companies and consumers must evaluate and evolve their data privacy habits.
January 28 marked the tenth annual Data Privacy Day, an international effort to raise awareness about the importance of data privacy practices. The Department of Homeland Security encourages all Americans to weigh the benefits and risks of sharing information online, to understand how their information is being used, and to take steps to protect their identities and personal data.
In an increasingly digital age, protecting your privacy online can seem overwhelming. In reality, there are simple steps you can take to protect yourself and your information online:

  • Own your online presence. Think carefully about what you post online. Everything you put on the Internet – photos, tweets, and blogs – will be out there for people to see forever. Take ownership of your digital life by making sure that only what you want to be seen is posted.
  • Lock down your login. Always enable strong authentication for an extra layer of security beyond the password. Strong authentication is available on most major email, social media and financial accounts (e.g., multi-factor authentication that can use a one-time code texted to a mobile device). This protection helps verify that a user has authorized access to an online account.
  • Secure your devices. Take advantage of lock screens, passwords, and fingerprint capabilities to secure your smartphones, tablets, and computers.

For more resources on best practices for data security, please visit www.legalshred.com

Celebrating Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week

Gressin, an attorney on staff at the FTC remindss us tax identity thieves and IRS imposters are ready for tax season, whether we are or not. Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week is designed to provide education and awareness.

Tax identity theft happens when someone uses your Social Security number (SSN) to file a phony tax return and claim your refund. Employment-related tax identity theft occurs when someone uses your SSN to earn wages that are reported as your income.

Free webinars and Twitter chats are scheduled for the week of January 30th. Whether you’re a consumer, tax professional, or small business, learn to reduce your risk of tax identity theft, and what to if it happens to you:

  • January 30, 2 p.m. EST: The FTC, IRS, and National Association of Tax Professionals host a webinar for tax professionals, offering practical guidance about new scams targeting client information, cybersecurity, and how tax professionals can help identity theft victims.
  • January 31, 3 p.m. EST: The FTC and the Identity Theft Resource Center invite consumers to a Twitter chat about tax identity theft.
  • February 1, 11 a.m. EST: The FTC and the Department of Veterans Affairs co-host a Twitter chat for service members, veterans, and their families. Learn to minimize your risk of tax identity theft and how to recover if it happens to you.
  • February 1, 1 p.m. EST: The FTC, Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration host a webinar about tax identity theft for veterans, their families, and those who serve them.
  • February 1, 4 p.m. EST: The FTC and IRS offer a webinar for small businesses. Learn about tax identity theft, imposter scams targeting businesses, data breach avoidance and response, and free resources to help you protect your business, employees, and customers.
  • February 2, 2 p.m. EST: The FTC, AARP Fraud Watch Network, AARP Foundation’s Tax-Aide program, and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration co-host a webinar for consumers about tax identity theft and recovery steps for victims.

For details, visit ftc.gov/taxidtheft. You’ll also find tweets, tips, and blog posts you can use to promote tax identity theft awareness in your community. Wishing you happy returns this tax season!

There are also plenty of valuable resources at legalshred.com

Some Good News in Identity Theft Protection

Over the last few years, the FTC has warned that imposter scams are among the most common types of scams–when callers pretending to be from the IRS demand payments and threaten to arrest people.

The good news is raids on illegal telemarketing operations by the police in India were successful. The US Department of Justice indicted dozens of scammer who also were impersonating the IRS. After those actions, the number of IRS imposter scams reported to the FTC plummeted. A piece by The New York Times gave a back room look at the call centers and the raids that took them down. It’s a great reminder that scammers are organized, and they’re really good liars.

Here are four things that can help you avoid telephone scammers:

  1. The IRS will never call to demand immediate payment, nor will the IRS call about taxes you owe without first mailing you a bill. If you get a live or pre-recorded call claiming to be from the IRS and demanding payment right away, hang up. If you know you owe taxes or think you might owe, you can call the IRS at 1.800.829.1040 to explore your options.
  2. Don’t trust your caller ID. Scammers can make caller ID look like anyone is calling: the IRS, a business or government office…If they tell you to pay money for any reason, or ask for your financial account numbers, hang up.  If you think the caller might be legitimate, call back to a number you know is genuine – not the number the caller gave you.
  3. Hang up on robocalls. If you pick up the phone and hear a recorded sales pitch, hang up and report it to the FTC. These calls are illegal.
  4. Talk to someone. Before you give up money or information, talk to someone you trust. Scammers want you to make decisions in a hurry. Slow down, check out the story, search online – or just tell a friend.

For more on best practices in identity theft protection please visit www.legalshred.com

Dedicated to making 2017 our best year ever!

2016 was the year we expanded into Long Island and NYC as well as Massachusettes, Connecticut and New Jersey.  We are dedicated to making 2017 our best year ever.

Like each year before it since we incorporated in 2007, 2016 was our best year yet!

We shred and recycled enough confidential paperwork to protect over 24,000 trees and over 4250 cubic feet of landfill.  That’s over 15% more than 2015.

As Legal Shred, we will surely surpass those numbers and hit another record in 2017.

Whether you’ve been a client since the beginning or just joined us recently; whether you have used our service just once or twice or on a weekly, monthly, or on-call basis, we are grateful for your support.

In 2017, we will continue to deliver heartfelt, relationship-focused service. Ensuring security, compliance, and sustainability for the business and local community is our top priority. Our team of professionals will provide secure data destruction to safeguard confidentiality and preserve the environment through recycling. We are the identity protection company who puts the confidence in confidential.

As president, I am still at your service and always welcome your feedback, questions, and concerns.

We consider our clients part of our extended family and look forward to continuing to grow and improve with your support and partnership.

Happy New Year–and please let us know what we can do better and what we can offer to satisfy all your data security needs!

More information www.hvshred.com and www.legalshred.com

Evaluating Identity Theft Insurance Coverage

Happy New Year!  Our first blog of 2017 is adapted from the recent Consumer Reports.  The question is whether to invest in identity theft coverage.

Seeking to tap into another area of anxiety, insurance companies are offering identity theft coverage.  According to money editor Jeff Blyskal, most coverage, which tends to cost between $25 and $50 per year won’t prevent or even alert you to identity theft.  It will reimburse you for losses or expenses that you may incur as a result of the crime.  Though that sounds  good, most bank and credit card companies already cover most or all losses due to fraud.

According to the Department of Justice’s statistics, 88% of identity fraud victims suffered no out of pocket loss in 2014, the latest year which data are available.  Of those who lost money, the median loss was $70.

Insurance company coverage usually includes assistance in straightening out the aftermath of identity theft which is generally easy when the fraud involves credit cards–the most common type–but can be more time consuming for accounts at banks and other institutions.

If you purchase protection, make sure you know what it provides.

Best case scenario is to take all precautions to protect your identity in the first place–including shredding all obsolete confidential records.

For more on best practices for identity theft prevention, please visit www.hvshred.com or www.legalshred.com

Happy New Year!

 

Another Gateway for Identity Theft–The App Store

Apps have definitely come in handy to make our lives easier.  It’s no joke that if you need/want something there’s likely “an app for that”; it’s also no joke that scammers have infested the app world and are using our interest in apps as a gateway to personally identifying information they can use to steal from us–or, at the very least–wreak havoc on our devices.

This week’s blog is adapted from a recent posting to the FTC’s very helpful blog focused on identity theft.  We credit Consumer Education Specialist Ari Lazarus for gathering the information.

It’s only natural that fraudsters follow the money. Fake phone apps quickly pop up that impersonate well-known retailers in order to steal your personal information. Their names are similar to well-known brands, and their descriptions promise enticing deals or features.

But these fraudulent apps can take your credit card or bank information. Some fake apps may even install malware onto your phone and demand money from you to unlock it.

Here are some tips to avoid downloading fraudulent apps:

  • Not sure if a shopping app is legit? Go directly to the retailer’s website and see if they promote it. If they do have an app, they will direct you to the app store where you can download it.
  • On the web, you can search a brand name, plus “fake app” to see if the company has reported its brand being spoofed.
  • Look for reviews of the app before you download – both in the app stores and on the web. If the app has no reviews, it was likely created recently, and could be a fake. Real apps for big retailers often have thousands of reviews.
  • Don’t download apps with misspelled words in their description. Many fake apps were created in a hurry. On the other hand, some fake apps look almost like the real thing.

If you’re using apps for shopping, keep records of your transactions. Screenshot or save the product description and price, the online receipt, and the emails you send and receive from the seller.

As always, monitor your credit card statements frequently; be on the lookout for charges that you don’t recognize.

For more on best practices for identity theft protection, please visit www.hvshred.com

Safe Shopping This Holiday Season

In this final week before Christmas amid the frenzy of last minute shopping, this week’s blog focuses on making sure the last minute shopping is safe.

In a recent blog posted on the FTC website, Ari Lazarus, Consumer Education Specialist hit the highlights.

According to Lazarus, it pays to slow down and take some precautions when shopping online. The FTC has recently seen a spike of complaints about online retailers who didn’t deliver goods when they said they would, or didn’t deliver them at all. Late or no-show deliveries can make for less-than-jolly holidays. So here are a few tips to help make your online shopping merry and bright.

  • First a foremost, do your research. Use search engines to find out more about a product, brand or seller. Type the name into a search engine with words like “review” “complaint” or “scam.”
  • Definitely take the time to read reviews from other people, experts and columnists. They can give you an idea of how a product performs. Don’t put all your trust in any one review. Some reviews are based on testing by independent experts, others are from people who purchased the product. Both types can be useful.
  • Thoroughly read the terms of the deal–including delivery dates and refund policies. Can you return the item for a full refund if you’re not satisfied? Who pays the shipping costs or restocking fees? When will you get your order? Can you pay extra for faster delivery? Federal law requires sellers to ship items as promised or within 30 days after the order date if no specific date is promised. Many sites offer tracking options that let you see where your purchase is in the delivery chain, and when you can expect it to arrive.
  • Finally, make sure you have contact information to follow up if needed. Several sites that generated complaints to the FTC had little or no information on how to get in touch with the company. If you don’t see a phone number or email address, consider it a red flag and take your business elsewhere.

For more on best practices in identity theft prevention and secured destruction of confidential records, please visit www.legalshred.com

Tis the Season for Identity Theft Protection

Many of us have the latest gadgets and “smart” appliances on our gift lists.  Many are now connected to the wonderful “Internet of Things”.  What I’m sure none of us have on our wish list is getting hacked.  Today’s blog is advice from Consumer Education Specialist Ari Lazarus from the Federal Trade Commission—the division of the Federal government that takes on the responsibility of consumer protection.

 

Today’s hackers are attacking a lot more than just computers. They’re going after ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) products – like internet connected cameras and refrigerators and using them to create havoc on the internet.

 

In October, hackers used the “Mirai” malware to attack unsecured IoT devices, turning them into zombie computers to overwhelm and shut down popular websites including Netflix, Paypal and Twitter.

 

Attacks like that are more than just an inconvenience. They can put your information at risk. So what can you do to reduce the risk of compromise to your home network and smart products?

  • Be mindful of each question during the set up process—DO NOT JUST CLICK “NEXT”. Review the default settings carefully before making a selection, and use the security features for your device. If it allows you to set up a passcode lockout (“three strikes and you’re out”) and enable encryption, you can add a layer of protection to your device.
  • Like you do for your computer and smartphone, download the latest security updates. To be secure and effective, the software that comes with your device needs updates. Before you set up a new device, and periodically afterwards, visit the manufacturer’s website or the device’s settings menu to see if there’s a new version of the software available for download. To make sure you hear about the latest version, register your device with the manufacturer and sign up to get updates.
  • Be sure to create original passwords for each device. The manufacturer may have assigned your device a standard default password. Hackers know the default passwords, so change it to something more complex and secure.

 

At Legal Shred, we want to do everything we can to help make this year’s holiday season your best ever.  For more on identity theft best practices, please visit legalshred.com or hvshred.com

Keeping Scammers from Dimming Holiday Cheer

Form of payment is key.  If someone is asking you to pay with an iTunes or Amazon gift card or to wire money through Western Union or MoneyGram: Don’t do it. Scammers ask you to pay in ways that let them get the money fast — and make it nearly impossible for you to get it back. If you’re doing any holiday shopping online, know that credit cards have a lot of fraud protection built in.
A key way to spot imposters is understanding imposters pretend to be someone you trust to convince you to send money or personal information. They might say you qualified for a free government grant, but you have to pay a fee to get it. Or they might send phishing emails that seem to be from your bank asking you to “verify” your credit card or checking account number. Don’t buy it.
In the holiday spirit and taking advantage of tax benefits, it’s a big time of year to donate to charities.  To make sure your money is really getting to a real charity, research your chosen charities first.  Good resources for verification include Charity Navigator, Charity Watch, and Guide Star.
The holiday season is upon us–let’s make it the cheeriest ever.
For more on identity theft best practices please visit www.hvshred.com