IRS Information Returns: An Identity Thief's Dream?

At this time of the year, you can expect to receive in your mail at least some IRS information returns that will contain your full Social Security number.  Your Social Security number is the key to identity theft.  For this reason, an information return (like a W-2) can be an identity thief’s dream come true.  In fact, some information returns may contain not only your full Social Security number, but your bank or other financial institution account number(s)—the perfect combination for identity theft.  Read our suggestions on what you can do to protect yourself.

Beth Givens Acceptance Speech, CFA Fortieth Annual Awards Dinner

One story stands out from those early day in the mid-1990s. An elderly woman from the Bay Area phoned. She had been mugged in front of her home a few months earlier, and her purse was stolen. She survived the mugging, and was able to take care of her stolen credit cards and her checking account. But she explained that it was far more difficult to deal with the brand new credit accounts opened in her name.

She told me that she kept notes on the steps she had needed to take in order to clean up her credit report. Was I interested in what she had learned?

I said “yes, of course!”  I copied down each of her steps, added other information from our files and logs – and that became our first guide on identity theft – a guide that has been updated and revised dozens of times since.

500 Million Sensitive Records Breached Since 2005

The most recent total from the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse’s Chronology of Data Breaches shows more than a half billion sensitive records breached since 2005, leaving Americans vulnerable to identity theft. Employees losing laptop computers, hackers downloading credit card numbers and sensitive personal data accidentally exposed online -- the Chronology of Data Breaches shows hundreds of ways that the personal information of consumers is lost, stolen or exposed. The Chronology of Data Breaches, a project of the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse since 2005, lists incidents involving breached consumer information, such as personal medical records, credit card numbers and Social Security numbers.

The most recent total, published August 24, 2010, is a wake-up call to consumers who think identity theft can’t happen to them. The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse estimates that the Chronology shows only a fraction of the total number of data breaches.

Is Your Computer a Zombie?

Has your computer or smart phone become a resource to commit malicious acts against other persons and companies? By taking advantage of a wide variety of computer vulnerabilities, your device may become a zombie that is under the control of a criminal that conducts crime using electronic devices (e-criminal). Once an e-criminal has control, not only is your device being used to attack other systems, anything stored on, or typed into, that device is also compromised.

In the past the malware focused on causing harm to the device such as making it crash or capturing keystrokes for the purpose of gaining access to bank accounts or credit card information.  As e-criminals continue to evolve their destructive goals and increase damage to their targets, they realized the need for substantial computing resources and a way to avoid being detected.  To achieve both of these goals, malware was developed enabling e-criminals to take over network-attached devices; a very cost effective solution!

Comments to Health and Human Services: Privacy and Security Rule Modification

The Heath Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act of 2009 calls for certain changes to previously issued HHS rules regarding privacy of individuals’ medical records (the Privacy Rule), security of electronic health records (Security Rule), and enforcement of the security and privacy provisions (Enforcement Rule). The current rule proposal encompasses the HITECH modifications for all three HIPAA rules.

New Federal Law Protects Gift Card Users

Is the gift card that you received for your birthday last month burning a hole in your pocket? Do you still have an unused gift card from the holidays? Consumers often have had to worry about using gift cards before they lost their value. That will now begin to change for the better.

Until recently, many gift cards users had few legal rights to protect them from fees and expiration dates. Although some states had laws protecting gift card users, there was no federal law offering nationwide consumer protections. That has now changed with a new federal law (the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act) that provides important protections for gift cards sold on or after August 22, 2010.

Societal Perspectives on the Role of Privacy in Social Networking Sites

Web 2.0, or the social web, means two things for the world of privacy: 1. The end of forgetting. The information posted on the Internet has the potential to exist in perpetuity. As individuals live increasingly in cyberspace, scholars like Jeffrey Rosen and Viktor Mayer-Schönberger point out that the unforgetting and often unforgiving eye of the Internet may create a hyper-vigilant society and suppress free expression. The Internet, some have postulated, could become a modern Panopticon. 2. Casual documentation. With the rise of easily accessible social media, consumers have become content producers en masse. Consumers are not only providing location data, photographs, videos and biographical details, but they are providing to-the-moment insight into their thoughts and feelings. The community of hyper-sharing encourages others to share by example. The result? Individuals posting their every moment with what some might call narcissistic abandon.

Geotag, You're It! What Your Smartphone Might Be Saying Behind Your Back

Snap a photo of a sunset with your iPhone and you can upload it to Twitter with a few clicks. But your smartphone might be transmitting more than a pretty photograph. It could be collecting and storing data about your real-time location – and then broadcasting that information when you upload photos onto the Internet. What is Geotagging? Geotagging refers to the practice of adding location information – like GPS coordinates – to different types of media, such as photos. The location information is embedded in a way that may not be visible to the naked eye. There are several ways to make geotags visible, including browser plug-ins and software programs that can reveal the location information embedded in photos, videos and other types of media.

Check Out of Your Checking Account

Is your bank starting to charge you monthly fees for your formerly free checking account? Has a large, impersonal bank taken over the smaller bank that you were used to? Do you visit your local branch for service, and receive a sales pitch for products that you do not want? For these and other reasons, many consumers have become dissatisfied with their banking arrangements. If you are unhappy with your current bank, this alert will help you navigate the issues involved in switching your checking account to a new financial institution.

Pages

Showing 1-10 of 29 results
Subscribe to 2010