Scam and Fraud roundup: The latest cons

Thieves are highly creative and spend 24-7 just trying to figure out ways to separate you from your money. Even if you are super safe and cautious, you can be a victim of a con, a phish or a fraud. Scams happen both online and off – but it’s quite efficient for criminals to mass target potential victims via the phone and email. Check our our roundup of some of the latest scams, according to some of our favorite security sources.

Social Security is not trying to take your benefits
The Federal Trade Commission posts a robocall of the latest scams which threaten to end your benefits. They offer this reminder:

  • Your Social Security number is not about to be suspended.
  • The real Social Security Administration will never call to threaten your benefits.
  • The real SSA will never tell you to wire money, send cash, or put money on a gift card.

American Express Phishing Attack Targets Customers
If you are an American Express cardholder, learn the email phishing and phone scams. Learn more about it and how to avoid it. Also remember this good advice:

Never click a link or download an attachment that you are not expecting
If the email came from your boss, pick up the phone and verify it. If it appears to come from a company you do business with, ignore the email and go directly to their website. From there, you can see if there is an issue with your account.

Don’t pay for help with student loans
If you have student loan debt, a program that promises to reduce or erase it might sound like just what you need. But some of these programs just take lots of your money and give you no help — or do only what you could have done easily by yourself.  Don’t pay for help finding money for College; Don’t pay for the Application for Federal Student Aid(FAFSA®) form – it’s free; Avoid scams for loan or forgiveness – you can contact the lender yourself. The Department of Education has a great resource on Avoiding Scams that offers detailed explanations of common scams and reputable sources for grants and scholarships. Also, see this one page handout: Don’t Get Scammed on Your Way to College

Don’t Fall for Equifax Settlement Scams
Scammers are looking to cash in on the buzz surrounding the Equifax data breach, specifically the ability for consumers to check their data and file a claim if they were affected. If you were a victim of the Equifax breach, learn how to avoid scammers and get to the legitimate sources.

The latest news on romance scams
People reported losing $143 million in romance schemes last year, more than any other type of fraud reported to the Federal Trade Commission.

How not to get scammed, according to a former con artist
You may recall Frank Abagnale – or if not him, you may recall Leonardo DiCaprio’s depiction of him in the 2002 Spielberg film, Catch Me If You Can. Abagnale was a highly successful conman until he was caught and served 5 year in prison decades ago. He later became a security consultant for the US government and FBI. Read his recent interview in Vox, where he talks about his latest book dealing with robocalls, IRS fraud, and good old-fashioned stolen passwords. He says these are still some of the leading ways that Americans lost $16.8 billion to scams in 2017. According to Abegnale, “Crime is basically the same; the only thing that’s changed is today there are so many forms of communication and the ability to scam someone from thousands of miles away without ever really having personal contact with them.” See our past post on Abegnale, A conman you should listen to.

Past posts on scams & fraud

 

Reprinted from Renaissance Alliance – no usage without permission.

Imposter scams top the FTC fraud list for 2018

Hand Holding Megaphone With Speech Bubble SCAM. Announcement. Vector illustration

In 2018, people reported losses of nearly $1.48 billion in fraud to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC.) That was a $406 million over what consumers reported losing in 2017. One in every 4 people who report fraud to the FTC suffer some monetary losses.

The FTC, which monitors fraud through its Consumer Sentinel Network, has collected tens of millions of consumer reports about fraud, identity theft, and other consumer protection topics over more than 20 years. In a recently issued report, The 2018 Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book (FTC), the FTC summarizes nearly 3 million consumer reports. Reports encompass both those in which money was lost, as well as those in which mo money was lost.

They sort consumer reports into 29 top fraud categories, and of those categories, in 2018, the three that topped the list of reports were:

  • Imposter Scams -18%
  • Debt collection – 16%
  • Identity theft – 15%

chart- top 10 fraud categories

Related: Imposter scams top the list of 2018 consumer fraud complaints and Fraud alert: This is (not) the government calling.

Some other key fraud report findings include:

  • Telephone was the method of contact for 69% of fraud reports with a contact method identified
  • Wire transfers continue to be the most frequently reported payment method for fraud
  • Those aged 20-29 reported losing money to fraud in 43% of reports, while people aged 70 – 79 reported losing money in 15% of their reports.
  • People aged 70 and older reported much higher median losses than any other age group.
  • States with the highest per capita rates of reported fraud in 2018 were Florida, Georgia, Nevada, Delaware, and Maryland.
  • States with the highest reports of identity theft were Georgia, Nevada,California, Florida, and Texas

You can search the full report to find a breakdown of information on fraud by state – here are more highlights.

consumer fraud infographic

Reprinted from Renaissance Alliance – no usage without permission.

How to Create the Perfect Password

Especially being this time of year, identity theft is an ongoing and growing concern that practically everyone has to face. According to cyber security experts at Generali Global Assistance, these are some of the best practices for creating passwords that help safeguard your identity online.

Don’t Be Obvious

Information such as birthdays and pets’ names makes it especially easy for hackers. Also, using “password” as your password is not strong enough as it is one of the most commonly used. Think of something unique that would not be guessed, even by someone who knows you personally.

Make It Long

According to The Guardian, security experts agree that a password should have a minimum of 12-14 characters. Richard Cassidy, technical director of cyber security company Alert Logic, explains that a 14-character password could take roughly 811 trillion guesses to figure it out! He states, “Length is the thing that gives you protection, not complexity.” Passwords with eight-digits can be cracked within hours, he explains.

Write Them Down On Paper

If one of your passwords is especially long and you feel you may not remember it, write it down on paper and put it somewhere safe in your home – storing on your computer makes it easier for someone to hack.

Use a Passphrase, not Password

Instead of just using one word, use a short sentence. For example, “Newspaper” could be cracked quickly, while “IReadTheNewspaper” would take significantly longer – up to two years to be exact!

Be Clever About Using ‘Special’ Characters

It is normal to exchange an “a” for an “@” or an “i” for a “1”, but hackers are absolutely aware that people do this, so it is important to refrain from using these common replacements, especially if you are using a one-word password.

The Worst Passwords

  1. 123456
  2. password
  3. 12345678
  4. qwerty
  5. 12345
  6. 123456789
  7. football
  8. 1234
  9. 1234567
  10. baseball

Contact an agent at Cochrane & Porter for any questions regarding your insurance – we would love to help! 781.943.1555 or info@cochraneandporter.com

Protect Your Identity This Holiday Season

Our product serves as an alarm system for your identity 

credit-card

Throughout the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, it is so common to get caught up in shopping madness. It gets to the point we just want to get in and out of a store as quickly as possible, which often results in us spending more money than we plan to! However, while money is very important to us, there’s something else we need to stay mindful of…our identity.

Identity theft is a growing concern for everyone. According to The 2016 Identity Fraud Study, released by Javelin Strategy & Research, $15 billion was stolen from 13.1 million consumers in the United States in 2015, compared with the $16 billion and 12.7 million victims in 2014.  For only one year, that is a significant change!

How Victims’ Information Is Misused, 2015

Type of identity theft fraud Percent
Government documents or benefits fraud 49.2%
Credit card fraud 15.8
Phone or utilities fraud 9.9
Bank fraud (2) 5.9
Attempted identity theft 3.7
Loan fraud 3.5
Employment-related fraud 3.3
Other identity theft 19.2

Source: Federal Trade Commission, Consumer Sentinel Network.

In 2015, New York had 24,157 identity theft complaints – the highest in the United States, by far. On the other hand, Vermont had the lowest at 525.

Make sure you are properly protected this holiday season with our Identity Theft Protection plan, which serves as an alarm system for your identity! Call us at 781-943-1555 to learn more, or anything else insurance-related!

6 Ways to Protect Your Identity Online


laptop

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), roughly 9 million Americans have their identity stolen every year. Taking just small precautions can help protect your identity and good name. Although nothing will guarantee your safety, there are many ways you can decrease the chances of your identity being stolen.

  1. Use secure passwords – change your passwords regularly and make sure to not use the same one. Think of something that isn’t obvious and not easy to guess.
  2. Protect your social security number – Refrain from carrying your social security card in your wallet or purse. Keep it in a safe spot at all times and in a place where nobody would think to look.
  3. Use firewall, spyware and virus protection – Update it yearly or whenever necessary in order to keep unwanted guests away from your desktop or laptop.
  4. Clean out your wallet and purse often – Remove any cards you haven’t used in a while and cancel ones you no longer need.
  5. Shred documents that contain sensitive information – invest in a shredder so that all documents are completed destroyed with no evidence of a whole document.
  6. Keep an eye on your credit card statements and bills – if anything looks unfamiliar, contact your credit card company immediately.

These are only a few standard precautions you can take to prevent yourself from being a victim of identity theft online. Be sure to check out our Identity Theft Protection service from our online shopping store or give us a call at 781-943-1555!

Understanding the Risks of Identity Theft

Are you at risk for identity theft?

identity theft

According to the Federal Trade Commission, there are about 9.9 million identity theft incidents per year, or 19 people every minute! Chances are it happens much more than you may think. Some people assume identity theft is covered by homeowner’s insurance.

Identity theft is a serious crime that occurs when someone uses your personal information without your permission. Personal information frequently compromised includes your name and address, credit card account numbers, medical insurance account numbers, and your Social Security number.

One common way a thief can obtain your personal information is by looking through your trash. It’s always important to shred or destroy any personal documents before putting them in the trash. If your wallet is lost or stolen, immediately notify the police and cancel any credit card that were in at the time it went missing.

Other common ways for thieves to obtain your identity include:

Student Theft – College students are at a high-risk. This may be because of the frequent unsolicited offers for new credit cards that create an opportunity for thieves to gain access to their personal information. Also, because they tend to change addresses frequently, mail often does not get forwarded, which also increases the risk of identity fraud.

Medical Theft – More and more frequently, thieves are getting medical treatment and healthcare benefits while using someone else’s name and other information.

Child Theft – Thieves often seek access to a child’s personal information to create accounts in that child’s name. This can go unnoticed for years because no one thinks to check a child’s credit reports!

SeniorTheft – Senior citizens are frequent targets for ID thieves because many have life savings. They can also be less tech-savvy, which makes them easier targets for scams and less likely to monitor their accounts.

Don’t be a part of the statistics. Whether it is the holiday season, tax season, or any given time of year, you may be at risk. Take a look at our Identity Theft Insurance today and make sure you’re properly protected! Learn the other common types so that you can prevent it in the future!

 

 

6 Ways To Protect Your Identity This Holiday Season

As the holiday season approaches, chances are that you are at a much higher risk of identity fraud than during any other time of the year. In 2012, 1 in 20 consumers were a victim of identity fraud. This is a serious issue that affects more and more people every day.

There are several steps you can take to ensure you don’t become a victim of identity fraud. These include:

  1. Avoid carrying important credit cards when you don’t need them – social security cards, passports and other sensitive documents should remain in a safe location that only you are aware of. 
  2. Always shred any documents that you throw in the trash – shred things like credit card statements, returned checks or credit card offers. Any documents with identifying information and account numbers can provide an opportunity for identity thieves to take over your personal information. 
  3. Keep an eye on your credit and bills – be sure that your credit reports and bank statements are accurate and that all transactions were made by you. 
  4. Be careful when giving out personal information on the phone –don’t give out key information over the phone to anyone who calls and asks for it. Elderly people are particularly at risk – they are often targets for fraudulent calls. 
  5. Keep a file with all credit card account numbers, passwords, phone numbers, and expiration dates – This will be handy if your wallet is stolen, because you will be able to alert your creditors quicker and easier. 
  6. Get identity theft coverage – through our More Store via LifeLock, Inc., we offer the industry’s most complete Identity Theft Protection service. The system also provides daily monitoring of all three Credit bureau reports. Also, LifeLock provides a $1 million Total Service Guarantee. We hope that you take the correct steps to make sure that you are not vulnerable to identity theft this holiday season, and all year long. 

For peace of mind and proactive protection, check out Identity Theft Protection from LifeLock, Inc.