Consumer Protection | Business Protection

4 Facebook Scams to Avoid

February 17th, 2015

Jackie here. Every time I pop on Facebook, I spot a scam or two. Do you know a Facebook scam when you see one? Keep your eyes open for these red flags and use caution when you see an advertisement or offer on Facebook that looks suspicious. Make Facebook a place for friends and family, not falling victim to ID theft.

Free Stuff

You aren’t going to receive free airline tickets just for sharing a post or receive money from a wealthy benefactor by clicking “like”. Free can be risky on Facebook. That doesn’t mean you won’t find the occasional giveaway on the site (many legitimate bloggers and companies use Facebook to spread the word about promotions), but when you do, be cautious. Remember, there’s a big difference between giving away one blender to a single winner and offering a free iPad to anyone that wants one. When in doubt, use caution before entering a contest of giveaway.

Mysterious Videos

If a video promises the answer to becoming an instant millionaire, a sneak peak at a naked celeb, or a high speed car crash destined to be the next viral sensation, don’t watch it. Many of these videos are scams. Click on the video and you’ll be asked to download viewing software (complete with hidden malware). When you need that video fix, head to YouTube instead.

Password Requests

Don’t be fooled by offers to tweak your profile, change your Facebook background, or perform some other service to your account in exchange for your username and password. Your login credentials are yours and yours alone. Never share them with third parties.

Famous Friends

Are celebrities sending you friend requests? It’s likely a scam. Choose your friends carefully and be very cautious when friending those you don’t know personally. Double red flag if this new friend asks you to send them money.

Facebook and other social network sites are great ways to stay in touch with friends and family, but that doesn’t mean they are 100% safe. Use caution when you come across offers that seem too good to be true, or when a distant friend asks you to send them money – these are likely scams. Which of these Facebook scams have you seen?

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Would You Vote Online?

October 28th, 2014

Jackie here. As we head toward Election Day November 4th, our thoughts may be focused on candidates, propositions, and ballot measures, but an important part of each election is the actual physical part of voting. Currently, voters must vote by mail or head in to their local polling place to vote. An interesting article on CIO talks about the amazing possibilities that cyber voting could bring as it has the potential to bring the democratic process to more people than ever before. While I’d certainly love to vote online, I do recognize the risks and hope that before this option becomes available, security problems are all resolved.

Many Benefits to Voting Online

I love being able to vote, but finding time to get to your local polling place can be difficult. Ballots by mail are an option, but not always fully utilized by those that need them. Online voting has the potential to remove many of the hurdles to voting and to increase voter turnout amongst the young that already spend a majority of their time on the internet. Online voting could also reduce the need for voting day staffing, eliminate some of the difficulty finding venues, etc. It would certainly be convenient, but are the risks worth the benefits?

Online Voting- Coming Soon or Many Years Off?

The internet is inherently plagued with security issues, some of which would surely find their way into the online voting system. One technology expert estimates that large scale online voting could be 30 to 40 years away. Votes are valuable, and just as thieves find ways to hack into secure banking databases, they would certainly have incentive to try and compromise voting systems.

Another potential issue comes from the fact that elections are often run by small city and county governments. Implementing online voting wouldn’t just be a matter of creating one federal system; each area would need to implement their own systems and combat security issues, placing a burden on smaller districts with fewer resources.

Although there are some difficulties in getting online voting started, it isn’t necessarily years off. Several countries have started using online voting already, including Switzerland and Brazil. Other countries are working on creating internet voting systems for future elections.

Would you enjoy the convenience of voting online? Why or why not?

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Tool: Is This Website Dangerous?

October 20th, 2014

Jackie here. Have you ever had questions about the legitimacy of a website? There’s an easy way to check things out. I recently discovered a website checking tool recommended by the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC). This tool allows you to check out your favorite sites to see which are safe and which are not. It is fun and free to use. Check it out!

Using the Website Checker

To check out websites on your own head to the Site Safety Center from Trend Micro. Enter the URL of the site in question in the box right below the words, “Is It Safe?” then click on “Check Now” to see the results.

Within seconds you should receive a report about the site in question. Websites are divided into four categories: safe, dangerous, suspicious, and untested. I ran a report on a few of my most used sites (including Facebook and Gmail); everything I checked came up safe. This could be a useful tool for checking new websites, especially if you’re a little concerned about them. When it comes to ID theft and online safety, it’s always best to be safe rather than sorry.

I found the checker to be very easy to use. Best of all, it doesn’t cost a dime. This is one tool that I’m definitely bookmarking for future use. While this tool doesn’t guarantee a site’s safety, it is a good starting point.

Have you tried the website safety checker? What do you think?

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Shocking Videos and Malware

September 24th, 2014

Jackie here. Have you ever fallen victim to a “Click Bait” video scam? I know that I have friends and family that certainly have. These scams lure you in by promising some kind of shocking video. When you click the link to see the clip, a pop up appears that directs you to update your video player. Click the link and you’ll actually install malware, not a video player onto your computer.

What is “Click Bait” and How to Avoid It

“Click Bait” is a term for something that entices you to click on a link or video. Like a fish to a lure, these scams use your curiosity to get you to click. Often, the scams focus around recent events (for example, you might see a video promising some shocking ice bucket challenge footage right now) and typically promise outrageous, appalling, or scandalous footage of some sort. Rather than acting as a supplement to written text, these videos force you to click on them to learn the full story.

One of the best ways to avoid scams like these is to click with caution. Just because a friend shared it doesn’t mean something is safe. Your friend’s account could be compromised or they could simply be tricked by the scam. Don’t click unless you’re sure it’s safe. Reputable news outlets are generally a safer place to view video content than random sites or unsolicited emails.

I try to avoid updating video players and other software in response to a pop up. Automatic updates can help keep your software up to date so you don’t ever have to remember to update on your own. If you do need to update, consider doing it yourself manually rather than clicking on a pop up. Use the pop up as a reminder to go to the website yourself for the update.

Here’s more information on this scam from the Better Business Bureau.

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Gmail and YouTube for Kids

September 17th, 2014

Jackie here. According to internet speculation, Google may soon start offering accounts to children under the age of 13. While this is exciting news for parents that are already setting up accounts for their young children, it does bring about a few identity and privacy concerns that parents should be aware of. Before your child signs up for an online account, they need to be aware of the potential threats that wait online. If Google does start offering these accounts (or when other similar companies inevitably do), here are some essentials to teach your kids before signing them up for their first solo account.

Ask Before You Share Personal Information

Phishing scams are a risk to all of us, but especially to children that may be unfamiliar with the tactics that scammers use. Teach your children to check with you before they click on links or share information online. As they become more confident in what is and is not appropriate to share, you can loosen these restrictions. This will not only protect your child from ID theft, but can help them avoid other pitfalls of oversharing online; once information is out there, you can’t ever get it back.

Does Your Child Know about ID Theft?

Although 7 or 8 may seem a bit young to start teaching about identity theft, this is a reality your kids need to understand before they have their own online accounts. Teach your children about ID theft and how to avoid it. has a wonderful collection of resources for teaching children of all ages about online safety, including ID theft.

Read Policies Carefully

As companies begin to offer accounts to children under 13 it will be interesting to see what privacy provisions are in place and what restrictions these accounts may have. We’ve encouraged you to read privacy policies many times and this certainly would continue to hold true on accounts for your children. Read the policies carefully (possibly with your child) and know what you’re agreeing to share before you sign up. This is an excellent opportunity to teach your child about the importance of knowing what companies will do with your information before you sign up for accounts.

You Can Still Monitor Their Accounts

Just because an account technically belongs to your child doesn’t mean that you can’t monitor it as a parent. Sit down with your child occasionally and look at their online accounts. Point out potential problems and solutions. These first accounts shouldn’t be solely the responsibility of your child, but rather an opportunity to start teaching principles that will keep your child safe online for a lifetime.

Not All Children Will be Ready

If Google does start offering accounts to children, that doesn’t mean you have to sign up. Parents are responsible for deciding which online activities are appropriate for their children. If you aren’t comfortable with the new accounts, your child doesn’t have to obtain one.

What do you think about accounts for children? Will you be signing your child up if these accounts become available?

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11th Annual National Cyber Security Awareness Month

September 16th, 2014

Ben here, AllClear ID Investigator. This year is the 11th year of National Cyber Security Awareness Month (NCSAM), which will be celebrated in October. NCSAM is a collaborative effort under the leadership of the US Department of Homeland Security and the National Cyber Security Alliance. The overall theme of this year is Our Shared Responsibility, pulled from their mission statement “The Internet is a shared resource and securing it is Our Shared Responsibility.”

The main theme will be STOP.THINK.CONNECT. and NCSAM wants to focus on all the ways you can protect yourself from cyber threats and identity theft. Some tips they will cover include the importance of keeping security software current, automating software updates, protecting all devices that connect to the internet and scanning any plug in devices. Furthermore, be wary of communications that force you to act immediately or offers that are too good to be true. Back up and store your files safely.

Weekly themes will focus on different cybersecurity issues throughout October:

  • Week 1 (October 1-3) STOP.THINK.CONNECT. – raising awareness about the simple measures everyone should take to be safe and secure online.

    Week 2 (October 6-10) Secure Development of IT Products – this week will educate what to look for in software products from design, development, testing and maintenance.

    Week 3 (October 13-17) Critical Infrastructure and The Internet of Things – this week will highlight the importance of protecting critical infrastructure and the ability of objects and devices that transfer data.

    Week 4 (October 20-24) Cybersecurity for Small and Medium-Sized Businesses and Entrepreneurs – strong cybersecurity practices are vital, even for small and medium-sized businesses. This week will focus on what these organizations can do to protect themselves, customers and employees.

    Week 5 (October 27-31) Cybercrime and Law Enforcement – this week will help educate law enforcement officers on how to assist their communities, educating the public about identity theft, fraud, phishing and other crimes.

  • There are several ways you can get involved with NCSAM. I encourage you to check out their Twitter chat series STOP.THINK.CONNECT at or just use #ChatSTC to join on the chat dates. There are posters you can print out and tips to share with colleagues and students to spread the word in October at with downloadable icons and material.

    You can also visit a list of free security check ups that many computer security vendors are offering. will lead you to links to check for known viruses, spyware and more.

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    Phishing Emails: Tips from our IT Team

    September 2nd, 2014

    Jenna here. We’ve been getting a lot of complaints and questions from customers about an uptick in the amount of phishing emails they have been receiving lately, so we thought it would be a good idea to give a little refresher. Stephen, from our IT team, has some great advice for spotting a phishing email:

    What is Phishing?

    Generally speaking, phishing is an attempt to gain information illegitimately by posing as a legitimate person or organization. This is usually done with an email that appears to be from a trusted person or business.

    How to Spot a Phishing Email

    While phishing messages are very obvious, there are others that can be quite difficult to spot. Here are some ways to spot illegitimate messages:

    1. Sender Address – A quick review of the sender’s address can sometimes expose a phishing attack. Obviously, email addresses like are not legitimate. Additionally, as in the example below, docusign’s actual domain is rather than
    2. Bogus or Misleading Link Addresses – One of the best ways to spot a phishing attempt is by hovering your mouse over the links without clicking on them. Below is an example of a phishing attempt. By hovering over the link (in this case made to appear as a “View Documents” button), we can tell that the target of the link does not go to In this case, the root of the site is an IP address rather than an actual domain. Keep an eye out for links going to something like Though links may contain legitimate company names, they do not actually go to legitimate sites.

    3. Addressees (both TO and CC) – If a message goes to a bunch of your old or illegitimate addresses, it’s probably a scam. This indicates that the message was just blasted out to randomly generated addresses, addresses accumulated from several composed (and likely sold) lists, or any combination of these. These types of messages are often illegitimate.
    4. Poor spelling and grammar – Official emails are often composed using templates or at least proof read. If there are obvious spelling or grammatical errors, the message may be illegitimate.
    5. You didn’t initiate the action – If the message requests personal or company information from you and you have had no prior interaction with this individual, it may be a phishing attack.
    6. Email from a governmental organization – Most governmental organizations do not use email as their primary form of communication. An exception to this would be if you specifically requested the use of email communication for your account.
    7. Something just doesn’t look right – This last one is more of a “gut” feeling. If they are making an offer that’s too good to be true or something just seems weird about what they are asking or where they are requesting you go online, be cautious of clicking on anything.

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    Top 9 Things to Avoid Online

    April 15th, 2014

    Jackie here. Do you click on pop-ups or sign up for free trial offers online? These two behaviors, along with many others, may increase your risk of ID theft and online fraud. In a report published by AARP called Caught in the Scammers Net, several activities were shown to increase your risk of being an identity theft victim. How do your browsing habits stack up? Check out this list of the top 10 things NOT to do online. Avoiding these potentially dangerous behaviors could help keep you and your family safer.

    • Clicking on Pop Ups- You see an interesting pop up, what should you do? Don’t click on it! Clicking on pop ups is a risky online behavior. Instead, close the pop up immediately and access websites by visiting them directly. You can even install or enable a pop up blocker on your web browser to eliminate the temptation to click. Not all pop-ups are harmful, but it’s often better to be safe than sorry.
    • Selling Products on eBay- While there are a lot of great opportunities for buying and selling products on auction sites like eBay, there is also some risk. The AARP study found that selling items on auction sites increased your risk of fraud. If you do choose to sell, be careful and be on the lookout for fraud—check your credit reports and bank statements carefully.
    • Opening Emails from Unknown Senders- Do you open emails from people you don’t know? This can be a risky behavior, especially if you follow links or open attachments. When opening an unknown email can’t be avoided, use caution and never share personal information with the sender.
    • Downloading Apps- I love a good app just as much as the next person, but each time I download a new one, I carefully review it. Choose apps only from a reputable marketplace and carefully analyze user reviews before downloading. If you want a great app that will actually help you protect your identity, check out the AllClear ID app.
    • Visiting a Website that Requires You to Read a Privacy Policy or a Terms of Agreement Statement- You might not think that a privacy policy could increase your ID theft risk, but the study authors certainly do. They found that both required consent to privacy policies and terms of agreement were risk factors for being a victim of fraud. This doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t visit these sites, but you should be aware that this is a potential problem behavior. To be fair, one reason for this is the fact that websites requiring privacy policies and agreements to terms of use are sites that collect personal information that can sometimes become compromised.
    • Being Impulsive- Do you click before you think? Take time to analyze before you do things online. Many scams can be avoided with a little caution.
    • Signing Up for Free Trial Offers- We all love getting things for free, but is the freebie worth sacrificing your identity for? Be cautious of limited time free trial offers.
    • Purchasing Through a Payment Transfer Website- When it comes to spending money, be very cautious online. Avoid sites that ask you to transfer money to a third party or to an unknown recipient.
    • Believing Everything You See- If you regularly read our blog, you probably know that banks won’t send emails asking for personal information. Just because you receive an email, doesn’t mean it is true. Likewise, don’t believe that a privacy policy means you’re safe from having your personal information shared with other companies.

    While you can’t avoid every item on this list, reducing the number of risky behaviors you help you stay safe from online fraud. The study authors found that of 15 risky behaviors, nearly 1 in 5 American respondents had engaged in at least 7. More than half of the respondents (65%) had received at least 1 online scam offer during 2013.

    Check out the full study report here.

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    Is Your Child Increasing Your ID Theft Risk?

    January 31st, 2014

    Jackie here. We’ve talked a lot about protecting your kids from identity theft. Have you ever considered the impact your kids might have on YOUR credit score? Children and teens use the internet a lot and if they aren’t careful they could potentially expose people in your house to identity theft. Teach your kids how to stay safe online. This important lesson won’t just protect them, but will protect your identity as well.

    To keep your identity safe and teach your kids good online behavior, make sure they understand these essential internet safety rules:

    Strong Passwords

    Do your teens know how to create a password? A strong password should be a combination of letters (upper and lowercase), numbers and symbols. Teach your kids to avoid words found in the dictionary, names of pets and nicknames. Any ‘common knowledge’ information that can easily be discovered online by a savvy ID thief (think birthdays and maiden names) should also not be used as passwords. For more password tips, check out these articles on our blog; we talk about password safety often.

    Never Download Without Approval

    That free game might be a lot of fun, but it could be exposing your computer to spyware and capturing sensitive important entered on your computer. To help you kids to master the art of smart downloading, have them ask you for approval first. You can teach them which downloads are safe and which are identity theft traps—reading the data usage policies of the apps is a good place to look for information about if and how your personal info will be tracked.

    Be Careful Who You Friend

    Facebook and other social media sites are big draws for teen users. Make sure your children only accept friend requests from actual friends they know in-person. Accepting friend requests from unknown people can expose personal and family information to strangers. Take time to go through your children’s social media accounts with them, making sure that they are using good practices when selecting friends. You may also want to review privacy settings with your teen occasionally.

    Don’t Share Personal Information Via Email

    Does your child know how to identify a phishing email or a scam? Teach your child how to recognize email scams as children may be more likely to fall victim or to share personal family information that could lead to identity theft.

    Teaching your teen good internet practices won’t just protect them; it could also keep you safe from identity theft.

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    Favorite Articles for the Week of December 2nd

    December 2nd, 2013

    Jenna here. The news was chock-full of interesting and informative stories for this week, but we’ve managed to narrow down our favorites for you here. We have an article about a new delivery method Amazon wants to use to get packages to you quicker (hint: drones aren’t just a tool for the military to use), and a follow-up to that article about ways drones may actually help you in the future, as well as a great article about online privacy and expert tips on how to increase your own.

    Amazon Testing Drones For 30 Minute Delivery Using Service Called Amazon Prime Air, Forbes

    Amazon Prime Air, Sushi Delivery and More Ways Drones Might Be Used, ABC News (Think of all the privacy implications!)

    Online Privacy: How Secure Are You? , The Guardian


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    Secure Online Document Storage

    November 28th, 2013

    Tamara here, AllClear ID Investigator. Documents containing personal information, such as tax returns, birth certificates, living wills, insurance forms, and others, are commonplace in the lives of many people. As ID theft is the fastest growing white-collar crime in the nation, individuals are taking steps to ensure those documents are stored in a secure location. A safe, locked desk or a bank vault may be used for the physical storage of the documents themselves. But what is the most secure way to store sensitive data online?

    Online Storage Considerations

    The first, and, quite possibly the most important place to start, is to encrypt the data. There are a number of encryption services available. The Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) (used by the National Security Agency) which includes 128, 192, or 256 bits, is recommended. The best method to encrypt the data is to encrypt it offline. Though there are many secure programs available to encrypt the data, they are only as strong as their weakest link. If their sites get hacked, or an employee improperly accesses their data, the data which was uploaded into that system unencrypted is then compromised. Before you choosing an encryption service, be sure to thoroughly research it before enrolling.

    Ok, so, now your data is encrypted. Where would one store it? There are services that offer encryption entwined with their technology. Some services only allow you to access the files once they are posted, some offer other individuals (that you determine, such as a family member or legal representative) to access the files. Some cloud services will allow other entities access to your files if they are informed of illegal activity or subpoenaed. Each service offers varying amounts of storage size, and charge different costs.

    Whatever your need, take all factors into consideration before choosing the method of the storage of your personal documents, and research your options. Those documents are important, and it’s best to keep them safe, and private.

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    Favorite Articles for the Week of November 25th

    November 25th, 2013

    Jenna here. Here are our favorite articles we’ve come across in the last week. We have information about what tech companies are doing to thwart NSA data collection efforts, a disturbing trend called ‘route hijacking’ that could affect data security online, and an interesting perspective on the use of drones.

    Twitter Joins Google, Facebook with ‘Forward Secrecy’ Security, NBC News

    Where’s Your Data Going? Hacks Redirect Traffic Through Distant Lands, NBC News

    Drones Offer Journalists A Wider View, New York Times


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    Are You Hackable? A Journalist’s Story

    November 25th, 2013

    Jackie here. You’d be surprised what information hackers can learn about you if they try. An investigative journalist decided to put hackers to the test; the amount of material they were able to obtain in just a short while was astonishing. This journalist’s experiences are probably similar to what most of us would face in the same situation.

    Putting Hackers to the Test

    The journalist teamed with a group of white hat hackers (the good guys that help companies to protect themselves from potential vulnerabilities) and gave them permission to delve into his life. The only rules: no breaking the law and leave his children out of it. He even kept the process a secret from his wife to keep the experiment as real as possible.

    The hackers devised a plan. They researched their target online, looking for potential vulnerabilities. They then used these vulnerabilities and the information gathered to start looking for ways to access the journalist’s information. Some methods failed while others were very successful. Some of the methods employed included dropping a flash drive that would load malware on a computer when plugged in (in hopes someone would find it and open it to look for the owner) and trying to capture information sent over a home Wi-Fi.

    The Results

    With the treasure trove of information we all store electronically, it’s no surprise that the hackers were able to discover a wealth of information about the journalist. They discovered his Social Security number, online banking credentials, Twitter and Facebook logins and much more. The hackers were even able to access Amazon accounts and lock down Apple devices by registering them as stolen.

    In an online world, information may not be as safe as you think it is. That’s one reason why each of us must remain vigilant in protecting our identities. Run your credit, monitor your bank accounts, and do all you can to protect your personal information.

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    ID Thieves are Getting More Savvy…Are You?

    November 19th, 2013

    Jackie here. Every time I get on social media I’m surprised to see how many of my friends are sharing scams, potentially risky links, and more personal information than they should. We talk about social media safety often, but all too often we get online and forget. Even those of us that are fairly savvy at recognizing scams can get fooled as identity thieves and scammers improve their tactics. We might talk about the risks of social media often, but it’s always a good time for a reminder.

    I recently read an article written for information professionals about the increasing skill behind online attacks.. Today’s scammers don’t just post a link on someone’s Facebook timeline hoping to get a few clicks. They devise careful plans, created to maximize the number of victims and fool even the most cautious internet user. Although the article was written for those managing company networks, it has some great information we can all use to protect ourselves online.

    Friends Aren’t Always as They Seem

    Social media feels like a safe place. It’s where we go to chat with friends, network with colleagues, and unwind after a long day. Although you may be choosy about who you friend and which pages you like, accounts can be compromised, so don’t just randomly click on links. Thieves want to increase the odds of potential victims clicking on their infected links. They may steal profiles of users with large followings and distribute their links using the stolen profiles. Friends aren’t the only source of potentially risky links. Scammers may also use trusted profiles of large organizations to distribute their content.

    Being vigilant before clicking links is important, but it won’t always keep you safe. In addition, be sure that your computer security is up to date. Install and use anti-virus software, make sure your programs are regularly updated and watch for potential problems. Be aware that friends, favorite businesses, and others may be compromised and sharing risky content. Trust goes a long way into making a scam work; social media scams can be so successful because of the natural trust we place in our friends and associates.

    Special Interest Sites Are a Target

    Another favorite place for scammers this year is special interest websites. These sites may not have a lot of visits from the general public, but they are a popular place for those with specific interests, careers, etc. Scammers choose targeted victims and then devise plans to compromise them through specific websites they are likely to frequent.

    This type of attack is known as a watering hole attack. By poisoning a few select websites and installing malware, scammers can gain access to larger websites with stronger security. For example, thieves may target a company that sells security software and that has access to security certificates and login information for other companies. This type of attack can lead to thieves being able to access information they would otherwise be unable to.

    Social media and online threats are constantly changing, but their intent is always the same: to steal information and make a profit. Protect yourself online by being aware of the risks and by closely monitoring your personal information to discover problems quickly.


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    Could Your Heartbeat Soon Replace Your Passwords?

    November 18th, 2013

    Jackie here. I’ve always been intrigued by biometric verification. The thought of never having to remember a password again sounds wonderful, especially on those days when I can’t remember which password I used for an account and am trying to reset it (having a different password for every account gets confusing). Biometric technologies may sound like something from the future, but surprisingly, many are available today. Perhaps someday you’ll be able to use your thoughts instead of a password to login to your Twitter or Facebook account.

    This article from the New York Times provides an interesting look into some of the biometric identifiers that are being studied and used. One of the latest to hit the market is Apple’s new fingerprint scanner, but many other biometric options may soon be available for mass market use.

    Biometric Technology Possibilities

    One interesting option currently in development is a heartbeat monitoring device called Nymi. It’s a small wristband that monitors heart patterns (unique like a fingerprint). The wristband acts as a biometric identifier, creating unique passcodes based on your body’s heart rhythms. When the band is put on, it scans a person’s heart patterns. This verification then remains in place until the band is removed. One of the selling points for the Nymi is the difficulty
    in gaining unauthorized access to a heartbeat
    ; fingerprints are left everywhere, but a heart rhythm would require up-close, physical access to copy.

    While not yet available, the Nymi will be a fairly affordable choice. Preorders on their website are $79, charged upon shipment in 2014. The complete list of compatible devices, programs, etc. won’t be available until closer to the release date.
    Other interesting biometric possibilities include a brainwave scanner under study at the University of California, Berkley and face and voice identification under study by the FIDO Alliance. Some of the more advanced biometric technologies won’t be available for a few years, but it appears this might be an emerging trend in account and password security.  Users want an easier (and more secure) solution to passwords and biometric technologies might provide the answer.

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    Favorite Articles for the Week of Nov. 11th

    November 11th, 2013

    Jenna here. Our favorite articles for the week are here! We have information about how to safely donate to typhoon relief efforts, a surprising story about how often teens worry about online privacy, and a follow-up on the Adobe data breach.

    3 Things to Consider Before Donating to Typhoon Haiyan Relief Charities, ABC News

    Teens Fret Over Online Privacy, Theft: US Study, Business Recorder

    Stolen Adobe Passwords Turn Up on Web, Security Firm Says, ABC News


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    New California “Eraser” Law

    November 11th, 2013

    Jackie here. Do you ever post something online and then wish you could make it go away? A new California law will give teens this very right. It entitles teens to assistance in erasing online postings they later regret. This law has the potential to help protect teens from ID theft as well as future embarrassment.  The law was signed in late September and will go into effect January 2015.

    About the Law

    The law requires online platforms directed at minors to offer an option for deleting content they later regret. While online privacy laws like COPPA apply only to children to under 13, this law applies to all minors (those under the age of 18). It’s an important protection for teens who sometimes post before they think.

    In addition to requiring sites to assist teens with deleting postings, the law also adds prohibitions for the online advertising of things like guns and alcohol to those under 18. The law does not require sites to remove information about a minor posted by someone else or to remove content for which a minor was paid.

    Implications for ID Theft and Privacy

    Even with this new law, teens still need to think before they post online. While the law will enable teens to remove information they post themselves, there are no protections for information posted by others. This means that embarrassing party shots or inappropriate video could still make its way online. In addition, posts with your location or personal information can still find its way into the wrong hands, leading to ID theft.  Content has a way of going viral, and once this happens you can’t always get it back.

    While the law does give teens new options for deleting information posted online, it is important to remember that many social media websites already offer options for deleting and cleaning up profiles which are available to us all, young and old. Teens aren’t the only ones that post things online that shouldn’t and we should all take time to examine our social media profiles and clean up any sensitive or embarrassing information. Knowing what you’re posting and who can see it is an important part of protecting yourself from ID theft and maintaining a good online presence.

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    New Study: 20% of Tweets Reveal User Location

    October 14th, 2013

    Allison here. A new study from USC researchers found that in a sample of 15 million tweets, about one in five revealed the tweeter’s location through the tweet. Although that 20% includes tweets that are intentional, such as those saying the person is at a great new restaurant or celebrating a home run at a baseball game, some of these tweets also divulged location inadvertently.

    About six percent of users opt-in to Twitter’s platform to broadcast their location with every tweet. Most of the 20% divulged their physical location directly through active location monitoring or social check-ins. However, about 2% of these are inadvertent, where location is revealed through the use of a hashtag, for example.

    To find out if you’ve been sharing too much location information on your Twitter account, the researchers have developed a free tool called Geosocial Footprint to assess the location footprint of your account. The tool assesses your 200 most recent tweets for signals similar to the ones they researched, and then analyzes your risk and offers suggestions on how to minimize your risk. Remember, even though your social media networks can make you feel safe, you may be inadvertently increasing your risk of ID theft.

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    Boost Your Privacy When Shopping Online

    August 29th, 2013

    Jackie here. Are you concerned about privacy when you shop online? If you aren’t, you may want to start thinking about it. Every click is recorded, monitored, and tracked by marketers and others. Protecting your privacy might seem impossible, but it’s not. There are a few strategies you can use to protect your identity when shopping online.

    Block Cookies

    Cookies are small bits of information stored on your computer to help websites recognize you and provide personalized content. Since cookies are used primarily for identifying, they can unmask your anonymity when shopping online. To keep your purchasing and browsing history a little more private, block cookies on your internet browser. This makes it more difficult for marketers and others to keep track of you online.

    While blocking (or regularly deleting) cookies is an important step in protecting your privacy, it won’t always stop you from being identifiable. Cookies are easily blocked and deleted, but a new technology is being used that identifies website visitors using the unique aspects of their system (fonts, screen size, etc.).  This new method of identifying users is much more difficult to block.

    Do Not Track

    Another way to tell marketers to get lost is to use the “Do Not Track” setting on your browser. This alerts websites that you do not want your actions tracked online. In most browsers this is a simple setting that you can enable in just a few clicks.

    Use a Separate Email Address

    Create a separate email account for online shopping. Use this email address when signing up for newsletters, loyalty cards, etc. to shield yourself from unwanted advertisements.

    Make Informed Choices

    Who is tracking you? You can find out using a free tool known as Ghostery. This browser extension helps you to identify tracking tags so you can remove undesired ones. Knowing who is tracking you and what they are doing with your information will help you make informed choices about your privacy.

    Read Privacy Policies

    Another important strategy for protecting your identity when shopping online is to familiarize yourself with the privacy policies on the websites you visit. Understand what information they collect, how they collect it and who they will share it with.

    Shopping online is anything but anonymous. Try these strategies to protect your identity and fight ID theft.

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    Mobile Security Breaches On The Rise

    August 22nd, 2013

    Allison here. In the past year, over three-fourths of businesses had a mobile security incident of some kind. For almost half of these businesses, the cost of the incident (including fixing the problem, business losses, time spent detecting the problem, etc.) was over six figures. This rise in mobile security breaches is at least partly a result of the increase in the number of mobile devices and other technologies that store information. According to an annual mobile security report produced by Checkpoint Software Technologies Ltd, the main reasons for the high rate of mobile security incidents include:

    • More Personal Mobile Devices Connecting to the Corporate Network – When asked, 45 percent of companies that allow personal mobile devices say they have more than 5 times as many personal mobile devices as they had two years ago.
    • Corporate Information Not Managed on Mobile Devices – Even with the rise in mobile security incidents, 63 percent of businesses do not manage corporate information on personal devices, leaving it vulnerable to more security breaches.
    • Increase in Customer Information on Mobile Devices—More than half of the businesses surveyed stated they store sensitive customer information on mobile devices. This large amount of personal data causes id thieves and hackers to target mobile devices more frequently, as they are a potential gold mine of personal information.

    Related Links:

    Outsmarting Smartphone Thieves

    3 Tips for Safe Mobile Banking

    FTC: Consumer Protections Needed for Mobile Payment Industry


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    Reclaim Your Name

    August 8th, 2013

    Allison here. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a website where you could download and access all the information that companies and data brokers have acquired from you online? Then, after you have access and have seen this information, you can pick and choose what you want to share and for what purpose? Well, FTC Commissioner Julie Brill has come up with just this idea, and is pushing the ‘Reclaim Your Name” concept to give consumers more control over their data.

    About Reclaim Your Name

    Reclaim Your Name is intended to allow consumers more control over the data companies have about them, and even to tell certain companies not to use their data if it’s being used for marketing purposes. Consumers would also be able to find out how brokers are collecting data and to correct errors in information used for major decisions such as credit, insurance, and employment. Although the campaign has been ongoing for a year now, Brill says that some industry leaders have expressed interest in the idea. Privacy policies and data brokerage have been scrutinized for the past year by the FTC as well as representatives in the House and Senate, placing more pressure on companies to change their big data practices.

    So far, Reclaim Your Name seems to be gaining popularity. Time will tell whether or not this program becomes reality, and what impact it will have on big data, privacy, and id theft.

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    Online Tracking: The Cookies Replacement

    August 2nd, 2013

    Jackie here. Cookies track your movement and activities on the internet. Websites often use cookies to identify site visitors and provide more personalized content. The problem with cookies is that they can reveal personal information and help websites to track users. Luckily, cookies are easily deleted and browsers can be set to reject cookies if you aren’t comfortable with them. Smartphones don’t even use cookies. To combat this, a new technology called fingerprinting has been developed.

    What is Fingerprinting?

    Fingerprinting gathers information about your computer and creates a profile about you without having to use cookies. The technology uses the different aspects of your computer- like screen size, time zone, fonts installed, plug-ins you use, etc.- to identify and distinguish different machines. Just like a fingerprint these unique data points can be combined to establish unique identities.

    You’d be surprised at how effective this technology is. The Electronic Frontier Foundation found that 94% of computers that use Flash or Java have unique identities. Does your computer? Check out what information you’re sharing (and see if you can uniquely identified) by visiting this site. I was surprised to learn that my computer had a unique identity. One software engineer indicated that fingerprinting allows their company to identify 98% of internet users (odds are you’re one of them).

    What Can You Do?

    If you’re worried about fingerprinting, the solution isn’t as simple as deleting your cookies. There really isn’t anything you can do about it. Remember that your online activities aren’t anonymous. The best way to protect your online identity from id thieves and hackers is to be smart about the sites you visit and to share personal information only when necessary.

    Learn more about fingerprinting here.

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    Is Your Browser Protecting You?

    July 31st, 2013

    Allison here. When it comes to online safety, not all Internet browsers are created equal. Some people do like to dump on Internet Explorer for being outdated or “oldschool”, but  it turns out it’s actually
    the best at keeping you safe
    . Information security research firm NSS Labs, Inc. tested the five leading browsers against a sample of 754 “active and malicious” web addresses to see what percentage were caught by each browser’s defenses. Below is a ranking of browsers by level of protection:

    Internet Explorer-99.96%

    Google Chrome- 83.16%

    Safari5- 10.15%

    Firefox- 9.92%

    Opera12- 1.87%
    The primary reason for the huge differences in safety is that Google Chrome, Firefox, and Safari all use Safe Search,  a system that blocks URLs labeled as “malicious” in a database compiled by Google. According to the data, this defense alone is only 10% effective at protecting your computer against malware. However, Chrome uses an additional protection that also evaluates the safety of an executable file (such as a malware code embedded in a website) instead of just the URL .

    What makes Internet Explorer so effective is that it has its own line of defenses called SmartScreen. It does what Google Safe Search and Download Protection do, but with much more effectiveness. The URL-based portion of the protection system blocked over 83% of the malware. This test only included the latest versions of each of these browsers, so earlier versions may not be as strong in their security.

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    Update: What’s Happening with Do Not Track?

    July 3rd, 2013

    Jackie here. Last year, Allison wrote an insightful article about online tracking here on the AllClear ID blog. Since that time, many privacy advocates have been working to find a solution to the increasing problem of online tracking. Talks have been in the works for almost two years now to create an international Do Not Track standard, but little progress has been made since the parties involved have difficulty agreeing on the best way to provide privacy protections to internet users.

    Early in May, the parties involved sat down for a face-to-face meeting to further negotiate tracking standards. Reaching a consensus has been difficult since different parties have different concerns. Advertisers, for example, want it to be difficult to turn off online tracking, while privacy advocates want the process to be simple. The May meeting was called to determine if a compromise could be reached, and if talks should continue or if they should stop negotiations. After much debate, it was concluded that talks should proceed in an effort to meet the industry’s July deadline.

    A July 2013 deadline is in place for the new standards to be created and much will be needed to achieve this goal.  The W3C, an online organization spearheading the talks, published some of the details on a recent blog.. Here are a few highlights:
    • Do Not Track Should Be User Choice- DNT settings need to reflect a choice by internet users. The industry is working to explore anti-tampering measures to ensure that DNT settings reflect a user’s actual choice.
    • Data Retention Periods Will Be Explored- Collected data should be stored for specific periods of time. They plan to work on creating guidelines for data retention timelines and transparency guidelines so users understand how long collected data will be stored.

    Will the industry be able to come to a Do Not Track consensus before their July 2013 deadline? For the deadline to be met, all parties involved will have to be open to compromise. It will be interesting to see what solutions the W3C can create to help better protect our online privacy. Learn more here.

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    Facebook Cloning: A New ID Theft Threat

    June 13th, 2013

    Allison here. Facebook cloning is a new type of identity theft where someone creates an exact replica of your profile and sends friend requests to all of your friends. It’s not hard to do, as the cloner simply needs to add you as a friend, copy and paste the information, and he or she has everything to create the clone. This form of id theft doesn’t just hurt you, but it can also hurt your friends and family.

    A resident of Hawaii had this happen to her around a month ago. She discovered the scam when a friend of hers said he had given the clone his credit card number, after her clone account requested it. As the scammer behind the clone account had all of the woman’s profile information, he or she was able to replicate the profile perfectly, making friends and family think it was a legitimate account.

    There are three primary ways to stop this from happening to you:

    1. The first is to remove your email from your Facebook profile. Once a possible cloner or hacker has access to this, then it’s only a matter of time before s/he guesses the password and gets in.
    2. The second is to change the privacy setting on your profile. Make it so that only friends can see what you post.
    3. The third is to add only people you know and trust. Since cloners get to your information by adding you as a friend, you want to avoid adding people you don’t know.



    Related Links:

    Facebook Home and Your Privacy

    Hacker Reports Flaw to Facebook

    Facebook’s New Graph Search and Your Privacy





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    Microsoft Product “Death Watch”

    April 30th, 2013

    Allison here. In less than a year, Microsoft will terminate extended support for Windows XP. This means more than just a lack of help for the 39% of people who use XP as their operating system; it also means a potential lack of security. Once the support ends, there won’t be any more security updates, so those still running Windows XP will be extremely vulnerable to malware, viruses, and other problems.
    Windows XP may be popular, and a very good operating system, but it may be time to start thinking about switching to a new operating system in preparation for this end of support. It’s over a decade old, and Microsoft had extended the deadline for terminating support more than once. However, it’s unlikely that Microsoft will keep security support going, despite XP’s popularity. There are several upgrades to choose from, such as Windows 7 and Windows 8, or Vista.

    Update all of your tech gadgets

    While you’re at it, it may be a good idea to upgrade all of your Microsoft products. Actually, it’s probably best to upgrade or update all of your computer and tech gadgets, whether it’s through downloading the latest version or the newest security patches, or another method of boosting your security. It turns out that a lot of Microsoft is terminating its extended support for a lot of products over the next 18 months, so upgrading your support as soon as possible is a great idea.

    Overall, the end of many of Microsaoft’s security updates highlights the importance of updating your programs, and of having technology that can handle the latest upgrades (I dumped my Mac a few years ago because it could no longer handle my Internet browser updates). In protecting yourself from id theft, hackers, and scammers, it’s not just a matter of having the latest version of a product, or the sleekest design.

    Related Links:

    Study: You May Share More on Facebook Than You Think

    Tips for Safe Use of Public Wi-Fi

    Online Tracking and Your Privacy: Is a Solution Coming?

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    Keystroke Encryption: A Tool to Fight ID Theft

    April 19th, 2013

    Tamara here, AllClear ID Investigations. The internet is a wonderful thing, and many people perform financial transactions and other tasks requiring personal information, passwords, and user names online daily. However, there are the cyber criminals who are looking to capture that information for illegal use, making the internet a tool we should use with some caution. One of the many tricks criminals and id thieves try to use to capture our information is called a keylogger.

    About Keyloggers

    Keyloggers can be installed manually by the criminal or inadvertently by the user from a malicious website or email. Once installed, the program will record each keystroke made, giving the id thief access to user names, passwords, and any other information that is typed into the computer.

    One way to combat this is to use an anti-virus or anti-malware software that will scan for harmful programs such as keyloggers, and hopefully catch them before any data is transmitted.  Another approach would be to use keystroke encryption. With keystroke encryption, it would not matter whether or not a keylogger is installed on the device, your data would be protected from unwanted access.

    What is Keystroke Encryption?

    Keystroke encryption happens between the hardware and the operating system of the computer. When you type the keystrokes, they are encrypted before being sent to the application you are using, and will appear as gibberish to anyone who is monitoring your computer. There are a number of different companies offering keystroke encryption technology to install on your computer, and most of the options are fairly inexpensive. Keystroke encryption can be a useful tool in the fight against id theft, and is something we think warrants some thought.

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    Electronic Communications Privacy Act May Undergo Changes

    April 11th, 2013

    Jenna here with AllClear ID. The law surrounding email and online communications privacy may soon undergo changes, as many lawmakers feel our current law, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986, is severely outdated. In late March, the House Judiciary Committee will hold the first of several hearings to consider whether to increase protections for emails and electronic communication, boosting online privacy.

    The Current Law

    Under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, the only law currently on the books, police need a subpoena, issued without a judge’s approval, to read emails and electronic communications that have been opened, or that are more than 180 days old. Many privacy advocates argue that this law is out of date, and needs to be modernized to “reflect our current digital economy”, in the words of House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte.

    Proposed Change

    To update our existing bill, legislation requiring police to obtain a warrant (issued by a judge) before accessing any private online communications was put forth for committee to consider in a series of hearings. These hearings will provide a chance to discover other lawmakers’ opinions on increasing the privacy standards, as well as to determine whether or not the legislation would face strong opposition from law enforcement groups.

    While it will take time before any decision is reached on the legislation, it appears to be a step toward protecting online communications from unnecessary access. We will keep you updated with news about the proposed legislation as it comes out. What do you think of the proposed changes?



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    Study: You May Share More on Facebook Than You Think

    April 8th, 2013

    Jackie here. Facebook is a place to connect and share with friends, family and associates. We’ve talked before about the importance of managing your Facebook privacy settings and carefully choosing the information you post online. A recent study suggests that many Facebook users are sharing more than they used to, especially with those you might not realize you’re sharing with: app developers, Facebook itself, and advertisers.

    The study takes a in-depth look at the evolution of Facebook and the data users have shared from its early days in 2005 until 2011. The study specifically examined what users from Carnegie Mellon University shared. They choose several different pieces of information (like address, phone number, etc.) to compare over the years throughout their data set.

    Evolution of Facebook

    It’s important to note that during this time Facebook has evolved dramatically. Once it was a social experience for college students only, and now it has become the go-to social network for people across the world. The information early users shared was visible only to those in their university network, while it now (depending on privacy settings) can be seen by practically anyone. As Facebook has evolved so has the way we share; after all, the purpose of social networking is to learn about and share with others.

    We Share Less with Unknown Users

    As Facebook evolved, the information people openly shared with the public (those not in our networks) decreased dramatically. This could be due, in part, to more privacy controls and a better understanding of how sharing information can lead to id theft. Even as Facebook created new categories for sharing information, the amount of public information has decreased.

    We Share More with Friends and ‘Silent Listeners”

    As more opportunities to share information were created, people started using privacy controls to share less with the public, but they began sharing more with their friends. This means more information is available, even if it isn’t visible to the public. ‘Silent Listeners’ are those that can see Facebook data that aren’t on your friends list. They include Facebook, advertisers, and app developers. Changing privacy settings and policies have encouraged users to share more with these types of listeners, even though users might not know it. Third party ‘silent listeners’ may have access to a great amount of data about you and your friends including birthdates, anniversaries, ‘likes’, and more.

    Knowing what we share online is important for id theft protection. As social networking sites like Facebook evolve, it is important for us to constantly evaluate what we are willing to share. This study provides an interesting look to how we share and interact on Facebook.

    To learn more about this study check out this great summary from ABC or read the complete study here.


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    Tips for Safe Use of Public Wi-Fi

    April 5th, 2013

    Jackie here. I love public Wi-Fi. It’s nice being able to connect to the internet on the go without having to worry about how many bytes I have left on my data plan. Businesses are starting to take note, and free Wi-Fi hotspots are popping up everywhere from the local coffee shop to the library, and even at parks around the country. But, this convenience does come with some risk. How do you keep yourself and your identity safe when using public Wi-Fi? Here are a few tips:

    • Choose Secure Hotspots When Possible- Secure Wi-Fi hotspots are your safest choice when sending sensitive information. Look for hotspots that use WPA encryption and require a password to log-in. If you aren’t using a secure hotspot, know that your information may be at risk and be selective about the sites you visit and the information you share. Watching a video on YouTube will put you at less of a risk for id theft than logging into your bank account over an unsecured connection.

    If you aren’t using a secure hotspot:

    • Choose Https Over Http- There is an easy way to tell if you are using a secure website. Look up at the web address and see if it begins with http or https. That little ‘s’ tacked onto the end means extra security for you. On many sensitive sites like Facebook and Gmail, you can choose to always have an https connection by changing your security settings. If you’re using public Wi-Fi, https is always the safest choice for sending sensitive information or logging into sites that contain your info.
    • Get a One Time Log-In- Some accounts may offer a one-time password if you’re worried about security. For Facebook send ‘otp’ in a text message to 32665 from a mobile number linked to your account (you may be charged, depending on your plan). This service may be available for some of your other accounts; contact the company and ask if it’s available.
    • Log Out of Accounts- When you finish using an account, log out. Staying logged into accounts when using unsecured Wi-Fi could potentially allow hackers or id thieves to access the information inside. An easy solution: stop using automatic log-ins and log yourself in and out each time you need to access an account.
    • Consider a VPN- A VPN, or a virtual private network, turns an unsecured internet connection into your own private oasis. It automatically encrypts information coming in and out of your computer, providing you with identity theft protection even when you aren’t using a secure W-Fi- hotspot. A VPN is a great choice for those that regularly connect online using Wi-Fi. Check out this great article on our blog for more information about VPNs.
    • Stay Updated- Malware, viruses, and other dangers to your computer can be waiting for an unsuspecting Wi-Fi user so they can attack. Anti-virus software and the latest updates on your computer and firewall are essential. Before using an unknown Wi-Fi connection make sure your computer is up to date and if you’re prompted to install an update over a Wi-Fi connection, make sure you trust the source

    Wi-Fi certainly is convenient and if you’re careful, can be a safe way to connect and share when you are on the go. Just remember the risks and be aware that the things you access might be visible to hackers and identity thieves.

    For more information check out this article from the FTC; the accompanying video has some especially great tips.

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