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.

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Pucker up for a selfie and set your Snapchat filter with dog ears – it is World Social Media Day! If we divide tech users into two groups, the casual account holders and the social media fanatics, this event can mean very different things. The casual user might see social media as a necessary evil, a tool that everyone seems to have to have, even if they do not use it regularly. To the ultra-fans, social media is a way of life, every day is truly World Social Media Day to these users.

Each viewpoint is valid and a matter of personal choice. However, when it comes to protecting yourself online, there are different concerns for each kind of user.

The Casual User

If you have a Facebook account but never use it, or you signed up for Twitter but cannot remember the last time you tweeted something, you might be a casual user. You might use social media for group communications once in a while or post the occasional photo. For those reasons, you might be at risk of being hacked or spoofed.

When someone hacks into or copies your account, they can target your friends and family for information and money. They can also turn the tables by pretending to be you, and ask for sensitive information about your identity or comprise your reputation.

If you are a casual user, there is good news. Your password is your best friend. Since you will not be logging in and out regularly, feel free to make an unbreakably long, complicated password. If you did need to log in and are no longer able to access your account with this impossible password, simply click Forgot My Password and sign in via the password change link in your email – make sure it is a password reset you actually requested before clicking any link. You can also choose difficult security questions that are not very common, to keep a hacker from accessing the answers and using them on your other accounts. Celebrate World Social Media by taking these precautions on your accounts.

The Social Media Fanatic

Congratulations, your obsession with online updates is now considered practically commonplace. Like millions of Americans, you think of social media as a way of life, a handy tool and just plain fun. But there is nothing fun about being targeted by a social media scammer or hacker.

If someone is checking their accounts routinely, you might think it would be easy to spot something out of the ordinary. Instead, people with high friend or follower counts and lots of posts are an easy target for someone to spoof their account. Instead of trying to hack into an unused account, scammers create a new one that looks just like the original. They reach out to the original account’s followers and lure them in with a new friend request, trying to capitalize on their reach.

One way to avoid a spoofer is to make sure your privacy settings are as strict as your comfort level. If you are trying to meet and connect with new people, your settings might be a little more open. But if you are only want to connect with people you know, there is no reason to leave your posts open to the public.

Depending on the platform, you may not have much control over who can see them. Therefore, it is important to avoid oversharing, something that can become a real problem when you spend so much time letting others see glimpses into your daily life. Avoid personal details, overly specific references to your home and workplace, photos that include geotags or identifiable locations and stay safe this World Social Media Day!


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Gift card scams are nothing new, but there is a new avenue for thieves to go after your money. While criminals have long relied on prepaid debit cards or iTunes gift cards for everything from IRS scams to fake online buying and selling, the latest “currency” is Google Play cards. As a result, Google Play gift card scams are on the rise and may already be targeting you or your loved ones.

You may have already learned about avoiding scams involving iTunes gift cards. These cards, which are only intended to be used for Apple Store purchases became a favorite tool for scammers who demanded untraceable payment in this card currency. Now with more criminals aware of the opportunity, the go-to choice for scammers is quickly becoming Google Play gift card scams. Here are some of the ways scammers target consumer finances by demanding payment through Google Play gift cards.

Impersonation Scams

Every malicious thing you have heard about iTunes gift cards, prepaid debit cards and even wire transfers is also true about Google Play gift cards. Callers pretending to be with the IRS, with law enforcement, with medical offices, bogus charities and other plausible outlets, may call and demand payment via gift cards. Remember, no credible agency or company will ask for an untraceable payment via gift card.

Reselling Gift Cards

There are multiple online platforms where users can sell unwanted, unused gift card balances. Criminals have taken advantage of this opportunity and steal the balances from unsuspecting sellers. One commonly reported Google Play gift card scam is the three-way call. The purpose of the call is to have you dial the number on the back of your card and verify the balance while the potential buyer listens. That makes a lot of sense when you think about it. However, as you are entering the card number on your phone’s keypad, the listener is recording the tones. After you end the call and before the scammer buys your card, they simply use the recorded tones to transfer all the money off your card and onto one they own. Avoid Google Play gift card scams by only using reputable sites and verifying buyer reputation when possible.

Balance Inquiry Scams

Checking the balance on your gift cards is a good idea. It helps you know how much to spend and how much you have left on a reloadable card. However, hackers have invented a tool that allows them to wipe gift cards clean by attacking the computer network that keeps up with the balances. In order to avoid that kind of theft, it is a good idea to use your gift cards shortly after receiving them. Also, remember that some types of cards can start to lose value each month if you do not spend them. You can avoid this with a Google Play card by installing the card in your mobile wallet on your Android device.

Protect Card Numbers

Google Play gift cards, just like other gift cards, are only as safe as the information on the magnetic stripe or in the assigned number on the back. If you lose your card or someone gets the number, they have access to your money. Never share your card information with someone who contacts you, and never verify your gift card number for someone.

Providing Emergency Help

One common Google Play gift card scam is for a person to claim they need a Google Play card for some reason, such as to download an app they must have for work or to buy a movie or book they need for school. The only catch is supposedly they are living in a location where they cannot buy the cards. They reach out to you on social media and offer to pay you to buy them a card, giving you the price of the card and a little something extra for your time. Once you read them the information from the back of the card, they will drain the funds off it and you will not be reimbursed. Remember, there is no valid reason why someone should need you to buy them a card, and you will be violating terms of service for gift cards if you provide one.

Google asks its users to remember two very important truths about Google Play gift card scams, and these are true of any kind of reloadable payment card. First, it can never be used for any purpose other than downloading content from the Google Play Store. Second, you must protect the number like cash. No one will ever have a genuine reason to ask you for the number from the back of a card. If you have been a victim of a gift card scam, report the instance to the Federal Trade Commission.

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.


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A recently announced Evite data breach has some alarming potential outcomes. The internet-driven invitation platform allowed people to sign up for events and virtual meetups, so the very nature of the website gave outsiders a way to contact users via email. Access to the users’ Evite accounts means a hacker could send phishing attempts, malicious links or other scam communications to unsuspecting individuals.

The Evite data breach, which occurred from February to May this year, compromised account information dating back as far as 2013. That information included names, email addresses, usernames and passwords for an as-of-yet unknown number of users. Other optional information that some users provided, such as birthdates and phone numbers, was accessed as well.

Risk Level of Information Exposed

It is tempting to think that this information is not all that sensitive, so therefore, this breach is not too troublesome. Unfortunately, that is not the case. First, any data breach of stored information is a big deal since it means someone has managed to work their way into a cache of collected data. Moreover, usernames, email addresses, and passwords are a massive problem if the users haven’t been practicing solid security hygiene.

There is an interesting twist with the Evite data breach that experts have identified: the notification letter itself. Now that data breach notification letters can legally be emailed—which not only reduces the amount of time for victims to find out, but also greatly reduces the cost to the company who suffered the breach—there is actually a plausible concern that spammers themselves will email the victims. Once news of this or any data breach comes to light, spammers could send out fake emails that appear to come from the affected company. Instead of helping the victims, though, they may contain harmful links, viruses or further phishing attempts. It is important to follow good protocols for your security when receiving a data breach notification email.

What You Can Do About It

For now, Evite users are encouraged to change their passwords and ensure that no other accounts they use shared those same login credentials. This is true even if you do not receive a notification email from Evite. Also, if you do receive any communication from Evite, do not click a link or download an attachment. The company has already said its notification letter while not contain those things, but it is never a good idea to click or download in an email unless you were expecting additional content. Always verify the safety of the link or attachment before opening it, regardless of who you think sent it.

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.

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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.


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Pass the sunscreen and umbrella because summer is here! Consumers are not the only ones who are happy to throw off those long sleeves and head out into the sunshine. Scammers also look forward to warmer weather in order to target victims with very specific summer scams.  

Employment Scams

Teachers, bus drivers, college students, residents of resort areas or anyone with some spare time can make a lot of extra money, especially in the summer months. prey on people who are looking for flexibility, significant income and easy work that will not conflict with other jobs.

There are a few telltale signs that a job offer might not be genuine. Unbelievably high hourly rates for basically no work, requirements that you pay for supplies or training materials, any offer that requests your complete identity in order to apply and any online offers that contain misspellings, vague information, links to click or software to download should be avoided.

Travel Scams

The myth of jetting off on vacation every summer is not the reality for a lot of people. Lots of consumers rely on specials, last minute deals, gig economy platforms like Airbnb or Uber and other options to save money while still taking a little trip. It is important to be aware of travel summer scams before you act.

Prior to committing your payment details or any other identifying information, be on the lookout for too-good-to-be-true offers like $99 for airfare and accommodations in the Bahamas, or the “I bought this non-refundable week-long stay in Miami and cannot go” messages that offer you ridiculously low prices. Some summer scammers go so far as to create entirely fake websites or steal photos of real properties to lure their victims. Others rely on genuine sites, like Airbnb, in order to post fake listings and steal money. Make sure you avoid shady opportunities and investigate options thoroughly before buying.

Moving Scams

Summer is a popular time to move, especially for recent graduates or families who wanted to let their kids finish the school year. Moving Scams can strike at any time during the year, but are especially prevalent during the summer. There are many different kinds of moving scams, but most of them involve hidden fees, estimates that are far less than the amount of the final bill and companies that change their names constantly to shirk off bad reviews online.

Social Media Scams

Your Facebook account or Instagram can when the weather turns warm. Everything from romance scammers and phishing attempts to burglars who scope out who is not home based on their posts can lead to harm.

Be mindful of what you post online, especially if you are taking that once-in-a-lifetime vacation. Also, beware of friend requests from accounts you do not recognize, or requests from people you thought you were already connected (i.e., hacked or spoofed accounts). Make sure if you are sharing interesting information that you are not oversharing or giving away too many of your details to anyone who can see them. Skip over messages from accounts you do not recognize.

Ticket Scams

Outdoor concerts, music festivals, and big-name concert tours are great summer fun if you do not fall for a ticket scam. The internet is flooded with everything from scalpers who overcharge for a legitimate ticket to completely bogus sites that steal your information and sell you a non-existent ticket. One of the ways to avoid ticket summer scams is to only purchase your tickets from legitimate, trusted retailers. If you cannot get tickets from the original source, you can go through a trusted reseller. Do your homework and make sure you are dealing with an honest company.


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If you are traveling and plan to rent a car, there is a very specific privacy pitfall threatening you. Rental car companies have begun offering premium features in their fleets of vehicles, including things like Bluetooth sound systems, on-board GPS navigation and infotainment devices for everything from playing music to showing movies. The upgraded technologies can pose a threat to your identity.

Most rental car companies have no policy concerning deleting your Bluetooth-enabled activities from the vehicles once you return them. Some privacy organizations have even rented cars with the intention of seeing what past users are still stored in the device. It was a surprise to discover that many big-name rental car companies do not delete old user information, and that previous renters’ info was still easily visible.

Now, this might seem like a small concern in comparison other identity threats – like having your Social Security number stolen – but rental car risks exposing information like downloads, navigation and your phone’s identity. Your personal data should not be accessible to anyone else, especially the random individual who rents a car after you.

It is unfortunate that rental car companies are not concerned as they should be about your personal information. Sadly, this is a trend we see across many industries as misuse of personal data and data breaches are on the rise. Even if companies are not as worried about someone finding out your information via rental car technology, there are still steps consumers can take to minimize car rental risk.

Do not connect

The very first solution is to not connect your phone to the vehicle. This might not be ideal for integrated use, but it is the safest of precautions a consumer can take.

Delete the history

If you choose to connect, delete your own history from the Bluetooth system and the GPS navigator. If you do not know how, ask the service department when you return the car.

Block your name

Some Bluetooth-enabled devices will use a nickname for the device when connecting, such as “Lisa’s iPhone.” If your nickname is in your device and is picked up by the car’s system, it is possible that the next patron could piece together your nickname, your whereabouts (from the GPS) and your social media profiles in order to follow you. This could lead to other malicious activity.

Avoid having the GPS take you home

You already know where you live, so if you are using the GPS in a rental car, do not have it take you all the way to your house. It is enough to take you to your city or town, then shut it off and find your own way for the rest of the trip. This prevents others from finding your home location to plan a robbery or other malicious activity.

Do not skip the inspection

Do not skip the inspection when you return a vehicle. It is a good time to ask for help if you cannot delete your Bluetooth activity, and prevents any disputes later about damage to the vehicle. Some car rental places have started letting you place the keys in the car and leave without seeing an attendant, but avoid this and you will be happy in the long run.

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.


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In what has become an alarming security trend, yet another company has exposed millions of consumers’ profiles online due to a non-password protected web-based server. Ladders, a recruitment site that lets users create a profile that can be shared with potential employers, was using an Amazon-hosted web server to store the profiles; according to a security researcher who discovered the information exposed online—and according to confirmation from the company—13.7 million of those users’ complete profiles were available to anyone who knew to look for them.

While the information didn’t appear to contain Social Security numbers, everything else that you might list in a job application was there. Names, email addresses, physical addresses, work histories, educational level, even whether or not the applicant had a security clearance and in what field were all available.

Fortunately, the information was discovered by Sanyam Jain, who works for a non-profit that specifically looks for overexposed information and reports it. There’s no way of knowing if anyone with malicious intentions got to it beforehand, though. After receiving the report, Ladders took down the database within a short time.

Incidents like this one continue to happen, largely due to poor password security. In far too many of the cases of accidental overexposure or data leak, the company who posted their information didn’t realize the default setting was “open” to the public.

For users of any platform, there’s really no way to prevent this kind of oversharing of their information. Other than contacting the company’s IT department, asking if they host their databases on web-based servers, and then asking if that server is password protected—all of which the IT department is probably not going to share with a member of the general public—there’s not much that individuals can do. But here are some actionable steps:

  1. Establish a secondary email – In cases like this, a spammer could download the database and target the users with spam and potentially harmful emails. If you’re establishing online accounts, you might consider setting up an email address that you only use for those purposes. However, in this case, it must be one that you can still check routinely since the purpose of the account was to be notified about job opportunities.
  2. Password security – Even if the other company doesn’t quite have their passwords nailed down, that doesn’t mean you can’t be safer with good password security. Never reuse a password or make one that’s too easy—remember, humans don’t sit and “guess” your password, but rather, software that can make billions of guesses per second does the job for them. Also, it’s a good idea to change your password from time to time, especially on sensitive accounts.
  3. Don’t throw in the towel – Even if it feels like your information is exposed every single day, that’s not the case. Data breach fatigue is a documented problem, but don’t let the constant news of poor security practices keep you from locking down your information as much as possible.

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.


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Why Has UCSD Failed to Notify HIV Patients of Data Breach?

Data breaches are already upsetting enough, especially when your highly-sensitive personally identifiable information is put at risk. But when it comes to data breaches and fraud, perhaps there’s no greater intrusion than to suffer a data breach of your medical information; somehow though, even that kind of intrusion pales in comparison to being victimized in a breach then victimized again by the company who failed to inform you about it.

Now imagine that the medical information that was breached is of the most private nature, one that could have serious consequences for the victims should it get out.

University of California-San Diego partnered with a health services industry organization known as Christie’s Place to recruit participants for a vital, worthwhile study. The study’s subjects were all HIV-positive women who were examined on their commitment to treatment based on experiences with domestic violence, trauma, mental illness, and substance abuse. Unfortunately, the entire case file for all of the study’s participants was left visible in the computer—accessible to literally anyone who worked or volunteered with Christie’s Place.

Somehow, this data breach has taken yet another upsetting turn: UCSD decided not to inform the patients that their information has been exposed. The details on who was behind that decision have not been very clear, but as of recent reports, the patients are still unaware.

There are some very unclear details emerging from this, including allegations of misconduct and even possible attempts to inflate the numbers of patients receiving support. However, none of those accusations has been proven. More information on those matters can be found here.

In the meantime, the very least that can be argued about this breach and the failure to notify is that patients have not been given an opportunity to take action to secure their information. Some of the participants also may have not shared news of their diagnoses with others, and a violation of this kind could have serious consequences for them. The university has stated that it will notify patients very soon, but there is no specific timeline for that to take place.


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United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced that it was victim of a data breach at the hands of a third-party partner. The information exposed included photos of license plates and travelers. CBP released a statement about the breach saying,

“In violation of CBP policies and without CBP’s authorization or knowledge, [a subcontractor] transferred copies of license plate images and traveler images collected by CBP to the subcontractor’s company network,” CBP added. “The subcontractor’s network was subsequently compromised by a malicious cyberattack.”

The hack happened by accessing a database on the third-party’s server that was unauthorized by CBP to exist. Although the third-party who caused the breach was not directly named, The Washington Post reported that the subject line of the emailed statement included “Perceptics.” Perceptics is a company based in Tennessee whose website boast they have been “securing our nation’s boarders for more than 30 years.” They design technology for identifying vehicles and license plates for federal and commercial use.

CBP claims they have conducted a thorough search and have not found any of the stolen information on the dark web. This does not however mean the data is impossible to use for malicious acts. President and CEO of ITRC, Eva Velazquez, sums it up in her NBC7 interview saying, “These things, they stay in perpetuity. It is not going to disintegrate. So even in this moment, if there is not a way to monetize, that does not mean 10 years from now that (stolen information) might not be more valuable.”

While CBP noted their own databases were not affected by this attack, this is not the first data breach under the Department of Homeland Security. Early last year it was reported more than 240 thousand employee records were exposed by a former employee.

ITRC continues to monitor the trend of cybercriminals targeting large third-party versus smaller first party databases. Four million records were exposed in 2018 because of focused cybercrime efforts on vendor security. By targeting popular third-party vendors that work with multiple companies, criminals can collect even more personal identifying information in one attack.


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