You might just be asking what exactly even is deepfake? Well, deepfake is the technique of superimposing existing images and videos using machine learning. You could be hearing about it more recently since the actual term was coined in 2017 but deepfake has been commonly used by the film industry for many years.

The 1994 Academy Award-winning film Forrest Gump relied on expert video editing to insert actor Tom Hanks into actual footage reels of famous historical events. From meeting different U.S. presidents to standing next to Martin Luther King, Jr. during a well-known speech, the fabrication was both entertaining and poignant.

However, was it scary? Perhaps. Could we ever again trust what we saw with our own eyes?

A new potential threat called “deepfakes” might answer that question. The concept of a deepfake, a combination of the words “deep learning” and “fake,” is a real person’s face and voice, but they have been altered to speak someone else’s words in a recorded video. That video could then be widely shared, and unsuspecting viewers might not know the difference.

Some of the most widely viewed deepfakes involved celebrities who appeared to be starring in adult videos, except they had never actually filmed in those situations. The infamous deepfake video of former President Barack Obama portrays him using profanity while appearing to look directly into a camera for an interview, something he never recorded.

While those celebrity sex tapes and the Obama video got a lot of attention, the bigger concern is what happens when it is not a famous person and not obvious the video is fake? What happens when it is an executive within your company sending a video message over a messaging platform, telling you to change account numbers or passwords? What if it was your grandchild claiming to be kidnapped and needing ransom money right away? What if it was your face and voice, agreeing to have your account numbers changed or authorizing someone else to use your account?

When identity theft first began to be recognized as increasingly widespread crime, victims discovered that law enforcement agencies’ hands were tied. There were no laws enacted to protect victims. As laws changed around the country to respond to ID theft, more consumer protections were put in place.

Deepfake can be a crime depending on how it is used. Making an altered image of someone engaged in an embarrassing situation is becoming a crime in certain places under “revenge porn” laws. If the deepfake is used for things that are already a crime, such as stealing money from the victim’s bank account or workplace, then it could be covered under existing theft laws. If someone merely posts a video of your image and voice saying things you do not agree with, it might not fall under existing identity theft laws.

Fortunately, the chances that video editors with this kind of skillset will target individual citizens just for entertainment is small. What you have to be concerned with is its believability. As the old adage says, you cannot believe everything you read on the internet. Now that goes for what you see and hear as well. Make sure you are using caution and discernment before sharing content or making significant decisions based on video evidence because it could be a deepfake.

Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at 888.400.5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.


You might also like…

How To Spot a Fake Website

Things to Consider When Using VPN

New Tool Helps Consumers Make Sense of Data Breaches

The Federal Trade Commission has been tackling the plague of robocalls for a long time and has had victories against this menace in the past. Now, a new report demonstrates that their initiative has had even more successful results. The program has been taking aim at robocallers and reminding them that their actions are illegal, especially if they are calling consumers who have placed their numbers on the national Do Not Call registry.

Operation Call It Quits

Operation Call It Quits has already resulted in action against 94 separate robocallers, many of whom were fronting for other businesses and contacting people on the Do Not Call registry. These groups were responsible for more than one billion robocalls in the U.S., ranging from credit card offers to utility companies. The FTC has initiated 145 cases against these callers.

“We are all fed up with the tens of billions of illegal robocalls we get every year,” said Andrew Smith, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, in a press release on the program. “Today’s joint effort shows that combatting this scourge remains a top priority for law enforcement agencies around the nation.”

While robocalls are certainly annoying, with some households receiving multiple calls per day at inopportune hours, a lot of people do not realize the danger that some of these calls present. Scams and bogus offers have been associated with robocalls, especially ones that pose as credit card, medical health coverage and utility offers.

Tracking down and stopping the robocallers is only one part of Operation Call It Quits. The initiative also gives these tips on how to respond to unknown or unwanted phone calls:

Do not answer the phone

If you do not recognize the number on your caller ID, ignore the call. If it is a genuine or important caller, they will leave a voice mail. You can also return the call later, which will result in a “number not valid” message.

Do not trust the caller ID

With spoofing software, a caller can put any phone number and name on your phone’s screen. They could lure you into thinking the call is from your child’s school, your neighbor up the street, the IRS or the local police. Never go by what is on the screen when making a determination about a call.

Take advantage of call blocking

If your phone carrier offers call blocking, consider signing up for it. You might also install a call blocking app on your phone, but be sure to read the reviews on the app first. You might find that the free version of the app is just as good as the paid version.

Report any robocallers to the FTC

Operation Call It Quit’s success depends on going after the robocallers, but the FTC has a hard time doing that if consumers are not informing them of the problems. Report any robocalls to the FTC at donotcall.gov.


Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.

You might also like…

Imposter Scams Were the Most Reported Complaint in 2018

In New Scam, Criminals Pose as Government Pretending to Help With Identity Theft

Study Explores Non-Economic Negative Impacts Caused by ID Theft 

 

With so many digital ways to attack someone’s personally identifiable information, it might seem strange that “old-fashioned” methods of mail fraud are still prevalent. A new report of mail scams in southwest Florida shows how easy it can be to attack an unsuspecting victim and steal their identity.

Change of Address Tactic

Using the change of address cards from area post offices, scammers target individuals by filling out the cards and redirecting their mail to a new address. After receiving the victim’s mail, the scammer can access sensitive documents that arrive by post and take advantage of credit card offers.

Security experts used to tell the public to be on the lookout for any strange activity whether it was collections phone calls, hits to their credit score or notifications from financial institutions. Perhaps the most telling sign of all was simply that their mail would stop arriving. If your regular mail does not appear for three or more days, someone may have changed your address without your knowledge.

According to the recent report, scammers have begun targeting two-person households for mail fraud. By changing only one spouse’s address, the victims are less likely to notice anything unusual. Meanwhile, the scammers are receiving the mail that should go to the other party.

Once a criminal controls the mail delivery, they can request new credit cards, sign up for utilities in your name and use the utility bills with your name and address to enroll kids in school or sign up for government benefits for example.

Other Signs

In order to prevent mail fraud, it is important to be on the lookout for suspicious changes to your mail delivery or any other signs of fraud. Do not assume a debt collector just has the wrong person, determine why they think you are the right person instead. Report any suspicious matter to your financial institutions and confirm the information they have on file is correct.

Preventative Steps

You can also take preventive steps with your credit card companies by signing up for eBills instead of paper and blocking mailed credit card offers, just make sure you. If there are any odd communications from your utility company, that could be another sign of mail fraud.

Social Media 

Social media is the other aspect of this recent wave of mail fraud, which has saved a few more victims. Once residents began posting online about being victimized, other people began to look into their own mail. Some victims only learned someone had stolen their mail after reading about it online.

Do not ignore the little red flags. Check up on them to be sure no one has used your address.


Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.

You might also like…

Imposter Scams Were the Most Reported Complaint in 2018

In New Scam, Criminals Pose as Government Pretending to Help With Identity Theft

Study Explores Non-Economic Negative Impacts Caused by ID Theft 

 

In 2018, more than one million children were victims of identity theft. Keep in mind these are only reported cases meaning there are most likely far more victims than we know. As a parent, it’s important to think about how can we help protect our children from identity theft and the years of repercussions that typically stem from it. The truth is, no person or product can completely prevent identity theft of children or adults. While this might seem like a daunting realization, there are preventative measures and safety tactics to help minimize your child’s risk. Keep reading to learn more.

Why Target Children?

Unfortunately, children have always been viable targets for identity theft. The fact that kids do not take out lines of credit until later in life and are not actively monitoring their credit means criminals can use their untapped Social Security number to obtain credit and abuse it for years, unnoticed. Child identity theft can be committed in a variety of ways. In some cases, the child’s own parent or legal guardian, who has easy access to their PII, might use it to help ends meet and with the right intentions. Whereas in other cases, it is used with malicious intent. Another common way that a child’s PII is compromised is through data breaches, phishing scams and other methods. Criminals will specifically target databases where they know children’s PII is housed like pediatrician offices, daycare centers and summer camps.

Preventative Tips

Only Supply Necessary Information

Often child programs or service providers ask parents for a long list of information regarding their child. Before filling this out, stop and ask three questions: Why is this information needed? How will you protect my child’s data? What happens if I do not provide it?

Often times, summer camps and daycare centers do not need sensitive information about your child, like their Social Security number. Chances are small business like these might not also have the proper cybersecurity in place to store your child’s information safely. Always think twice about providing sensitive information to any business, including those who seem reputable like your pediatrician’s office.

Place a Credit Freeze

To help stop criminals from taking out a line of credit in your child’s name, parents can freeze their child’s credit with the three main credit reporting agencies (CRAs). Placing a freeze helps prevent credit, loans and services from being approved in your name (or your child’s name) without your consent. Helping protect the financial aspect of a child’s identity is only one factor, but can be greatly beneficial. Experian also offers a one-time free child ID scan to help determine where your child’s identity could be used fraudulently.

Avoid Creating Vulnerabilities

Sometimes, even with the best intentions, parents can create vulnerabilities for their children’s identity. This can happen by trusting the wrong person with PII, supplying information to breached businesses or leaving documents unprotected.

One vulnerability specifically comes to mind, a child ID kit. A child ID kit is recommended by law enforcement and child advocate agencies in case of the unfortunate event of a missing child. It contains things like an updated photograph and fingerprints of your child to provide to law enforcement in an emergency. Criminals have taken advantage of parents’ natural instinct to protect their children and offer child ID kit packages that expose children’s information. It is important to note that everything in a child ID kit is completely doable by a parent and does not cost anything to complete or provide to law enforcement, a third party is not needed whatsoever. If you do create an ID kit for your children, make sure to store it in a secure, safe location and do not trust others with the information.

Of course, the Identity Theft Resource Center is here to help. Speak to an identity theft advisor for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.

Experian proudly provides financial support to the Identity Theft Resource Center.


You might also like…

Imposter Scams Were the Most Reported Complaint in 2018

In New Scam, Criminals Pose as Government Pretending to Help With Identity Theft

Study Explores Non-Economic Negative Impacts Caused by ID Theft 

 

For years, crimes like identity theft, scams and fraud have targeted residents in different states all across the country. Sometimes the crimes are simply based on opportunity, such as a large-scale data breach of a major company; in that case, the locations of the victims can seem to be somewhat random. Other crimes, however, have targeted residents of specific states, and the reasons for this kind of highly-specific targeting can vary.

Florida has the long-standing yet dubious honor of being one of the most targeted states over the past few years. The state has often topped the list for identity-related crimes, and 2018 was no different. The state ranked number one for fraud reports to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and number four for identity theft reports. These numbers are fairly typical for Florida’s ranking in those crimes.

According to different sources, there are a number of reasons why Florida might be such a hot target for criminals. These include state and local government structuring, the resort construction and tourism industries, a large retiree population and the high-density of the state’s population in numerous metro areas. Last year’s total volume of reports to the FTC was over 205,000 from Florida alone, and the average losses from that state were $400 per victim.

An article in the Sun-Sentinel explains, “Thieves and scammers apparently are attracted to Florida for a host of reasons: Its lack of state income tax means less scrutiny from state officials. Its transient population makes it easier for hit-and-run operators to blend in. Its large senior population provides a tempting target of savings and vulnerabilities. And its fast development means a lot of new money floating around.”

Of course, identity theft and fraud crimes are broad categories that encompass a lot of different forms of attack. Criminals can rely on highly-profitable but hard to trace tactics such as benefits fraud, credit card and new account fraud, account takeover and imposter scams. A report by Security.org based on the FTC’s data found that fake debt collection scams were the most commonly reported method of attack at 29 percent (approximately 71,000 reports); meanwhile, reports of identity theft and its related crimes made up another 15 percent, or 38,000 reports. There is a seemingly endless variety of ways that someone with a little bit of know-how can target someone in this way, as these findings have shown.

Fortunately, a lot of the ways that criminals target Florida residents—which truthfully, can all be a threat no matter where you live—can often be thwarted by developing an air of caution. Ignoring requests for your private sensitive information, for example, and refusing to make payments over the phone or via email can head off a lot of these attacks. Securing your accounts with strong, unique passwords can also help, along with changing those passwords frequently. Finally, helping others by spreading the word about common scams and fraud attempts can help protect those around you, which can in turn help protect you.

Of course, the Identity Theft Resource Center is always here to help. If you’re a victim of identity theft or have questions about scams and other issues, speak to an identity theft advisor for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.


You might also like…

Imposter Scams Were the Most Reported Complaint in 2018

In New Scam, Criminals Pose as Government Pretending to Help With Identity Theft

Study Explores Non-Economic Negative Impacts Caused by ID Theft 

 

If you are one of the consumers who have placed a freeze on their credit reports, we commend you for taking your identity protection seriously. As an expert in the field of identity theft and crime, ITRC recommends credit freezes for certain potential and existing victims of identity crime. While a credit freeze provides almost exclusively benefits, there is a down side consumers should be aware of: a credit freeze can block your Medicare application.

Individuals applying for Medicare benefits used to rely on an easy process through the Social Security administration in order to apply. Now, however, in an effort to protect people’s sensitive data, the SSA requires a whole new account called a My Social Security account to apply for Medicare.

Consumers cannot create a My Social Security account without unfreezing their credit reports. Credit freezes can be thawed so this is a matter of minor inconvenience, but it does take additional time. If applying for Medicare online, consumers will need to first thaw their credit reports and plan for the additional time this will take.

There is some good news, if you need to unfreeze your credit report the SSA only needs access to your Equifax report at this time. You will not need to unlock the other two credit reports if you have already frozen those.

If you are in a time crunch for Medicare application, visit your local SSA office and apply in person. There is a small laundry list of items you will need to bring with you as proof of your identity, of course, but usually a valid driver’s license and passport will be enough. ITRC recommends calling ahead to determine the needed documents to help save time and streamline the process.

Remember, after your Medicare application is accepted re-freeze your credit report with Equifax to help minimize the likelihood of identity theft. While you are taking some time to address your frozen report, remember to request your once-a-year free copy of your credit report in order to look for any unusual activity that could be a sign of identity theft or fraud.


Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.

In fact, of the 1,255 total data breaches recorded by the Identity Theft Resource Center in 2018, 150 of were because of the mismanagement of information by employees tasked with protecting it. That means 12% of the data breaches were the direct result of mistakes in handling sensitive information, leading to 1,131,288 records exposed and potentially costly consequences for the companies involved.

April is Records and Information Management Month, and while it might not conjure up holiday-themed festive images the same way Christmas does, it is a great reminder that your information and your identity are only as safe as the people who have their hands on it.

What does it mean to mishandle information? There are numerous ways that information can accidentally fall into the wrong hands. It may be losing a flash drive or laptop with customer records on it, the theft of company hardware like laptops or even servers, reusing a weak password that lets hackers easily break into a system or failing to password protect a database of records in the first place. In other cases, the exposure resulted from improper disposal of sensitive information, such as throwing paper records in an unsecured garbage dumpster instead of shredding. In many cases, employees may fall for phishing attempts or respond to requests that appear to come from someone within the company but are actually sent by malicious imposters.

In order to protect all of the sensitive information that businesses gather and store, it is important to understand how to secure it and what can happen if it is compromised. It often starts with a solid company-wide computer use policy that outlines exactly how things like password security, email responses and data access are supposed to be enforced. Helping every employee understand the ramifications of mishandling information is important, too. Finally, a good “delete” housekeeping from time to time to permanently destroy any outdated stored records can thwart a lot of security problems before they arise.


Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC

Read next: TurboTax Breach Cause By Credential Stuffing

No matter where your spring break plans have taken you, it is important to remember that the security practices you use while at home are even more important when you are on the road. Also, those same good habits that protect you while traveling are just as crucial when you are relaxing at home.

Booking Your Trip and Hotel

No matter when you plan to go, finding affordable travel arrangements can be a minefield of potential scams and fraud. Do not be swayed by flashy sidebar ads or “act now” special offers, as these are rarely a good deal and can lead to identity theft. Of course, old-fashioned scams like bait-and-switch schemes in which your condo does not actually exist or your reservation is not real are still a major threat.

Check Your Tech

Your technology can leave you very vulnerable during an out-of-town getaway. From connecting over unsecured public Wi-Fi to having your device stolen and infiltrated, there are a lot of ways that malicious actors can get their hands on your sensitive information. Make sure you turn off the Wi-Fi on your mobile devices when you do not need it, only go online over a secured, password protected connection and make sure you have passcode protected your phone or tablet. When you are not using your important apps like email and social media, it is a good idea to log out of those too.

Bring the Receipts

Make sure you hang onto receipts while you are out of town. First, it will help you stay money-aware and avoid overspending if you keep tabs each day on how much you have spent. More importantly, you’ will have paper proof to compare to your bank or credit card statement when you get home. If anyone has copied your card and used your information, you will know at a glance.

Activate Alerts from Your Bank

By taking advantage of security tools offered by your financial institution, you can be informed the second any unusual activity occurs with your cards or your account. Card Not Present alerts, for example, will text or email you the moment someone uses your card number online. Some banks will even call if a physical card transaction occurs in a location too far outside your billing zip code. These can help you take immediate action against theft and fraud.

Old School Understanding

Remember, depending on where you travel there are a lot of scams that have been around for decades. You do not want to take extreme action to protect your identity, then fall for something as simple as a common pickpocket. Stay on top of the kinds of threats you are likely to encounter so you can avoid them.

The most important security step you can take happens when you get home. That is the time to post any photos and videos online—not while you are still away—but it is also the time to take inventory of your financial accounts and your identity. It cannot hurt to order one of your three free annual credit reports a few weeks after your trip is over, just to look for suspicious activity. If you begin receiving a higher volume of scam calls and emails, that may also be a sign that something has happened to your security. Check out the available tools to monitor your identity and reach out to the Identity Theft Resource Center for help if necessary.  


Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.

Identity theft is not one single type of crime. There are many different ways a criminal can use your information, such as applying for government benefits, getting a job under your Social Security number, receiving medical care or prescription drugs in your name, and of course, the financial aspects. But stealing from your bank account or signing up for a new credit card in your name are just scraping the surface when it comes to the harm identity theft can cause.

Tax identity theft occurs when someone uses your compromised information to file a tax return in your name. They fudge the numbers, enter an unrelated refund dispersal option like a prepaid debit card, and make off with your money before you ever know that anything has gone wrong.

How do they get their hands on your data in the first place? There are many ways, including:

  • Imposter scams
  • Data breaches
  • Stolen mail or W-2s
  • CEO/HR phishing scams
  • Corrupt insiders/tax preparation services
  • Unsecured and public Wi-Fi hotspots
  • Social Security number that is lost, stolen or compromised

Of course, it’s just as easy for a criminal to purchase your previously stolen information online, then use it to file a fraudulent return.

How can you know if someone has filed a return with your stolen information? Again, you may find out in different ways, but one common way is for the IRS to inform you.

They don’t usually call you up and say, “Guess what? Someone stole your identity!” Instead, it’s a lot more likely that the IRS will reject your legitimate tax return because someone has already filed using your Social Security number. Another way is someone not necessarily filing the entire return in your name, but rather claiming your dependents on their return if they’ve stolen your kids’ identities; in that case, the IRS will still contact you about the duplicated dependents. Finally, the IRS might contact you if someone files a business return involving your identity as an employee and the agency wants you to answer for the unreported income you supposedly earned but didn’t list on your return.

The fact of tax identity theft is that hundreds of millions of consumers’ identities have been compromised in different data breaches over the years. That means no one is immune from the threat of having their tax refund stolen.

Fortunately, there are steps that consumers can take to minimize their risk. The Identity Theft Resource Center provides free victim remediation assistance through its call-center by dialing (888) 400-5530. The ITRC will host an informative Twitter chat with the Federal Trade Commission to provide insight into protecting yourself. The live event will take place on March 8, 2019, at 8 am PT/11 am ET, and will discuss the importance of protecting yourself against tax-related identity theft. Use #IDTheftChat to join!

If you can’t take part that day, you can still read all of the tweets later on by searching for the hashtag. For more questions and answers about tax identity theft, read our tips here.


Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.

Read next: Tidying Up For Your Identity, Mobile Device and More…