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  • Cense.Ai left a temporary data storage repository online, accessible to anyone with a web browser. It led to the exposure of nearly 2.6 million records, including sensitive data and other personally identifiable information (PII).
  • A recent data breach of Freepik, a photos and graphics website, happened when hackers used a known software vulnerability to gain access to one of its databases storing user data. It led to hackers obtaining usernames and passwords for 8.3 million users.
  • After detecting unauthorized access to certain devices, ArbiterSports learned an unauthorized party obtained a backup copy of a database with PII in a recent data breach. ArbiterSports reached an agreement with the unauthorized party to have the files deleted.
  • Victims of a data compromise can speak with an Identity Theft Resource Center expert advisor on the website via live-chat, or by calling toll-free at 888.400.5530.

August was another month full of data breaches, all tracked by the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC). Since 2005, the ITRC has compiled publicly-reported U.S. data breaches as part of our data breach tracking efforts. The ITRC tracks both publicly reported data breaches, and data exposures in a database containing 25 different information fields and 63 different identity attributes that are updated daily. Of the recent data breaches in August, Cense.Ai, Freepik and ArbiterSports are three of the most notable.

Cense.Ai

A recent Cense.Ai data exposure led to almost 2.6 million records, including sensitive data and other personally identifiable information (PII), accessible to anyone on the web. According to TechNadu, a database containing names, dates of birth, addresses, insurance records, medical diagnosis notes, clinics, insurance provider details, accounts, payment records and more was left online due to an error.

Security Researcher, Jeremiah Fowler, found two folders containing the sensitive data and managed to remove the port from the IP address of the Cense’s website. Fowler found that all individuals listed had been in a car accident. In most cases, there was also information like policy numbers, claim numbers and the date of the accident.

According to PCMag, Cense.Ai has not commented publicly about the exposure, and the company did not immediately respond to PCMag’s request for comment. Anyone affected by the Cense.Ai data exposure should monitor all of their accounts for any suspicious activity. If you find anything out-of-the-ordinary in your records, contact the appropriate company and take additional action if needed. 

Freepik

Freepik is a website that provides access to high-quality free photos and design graphics. In mid-August, the popular site announced that they suffered a data breach. According to the company’s statement, there was a breach from a SQL injection in Flaticon that allowed an attacker to get user information from their database. A little more than eight million users were affected. 4.5 million users had no hashed passwords due to exclusively federated logins (through Google, Facebook, etc.), and the hacker only obtained their email address. However, the additional 3.8 million users had both their email addresses and hashed passwords stolen. Freepik says they have taken extra measures to reduce their risk of a similar attack in the future. The company is also in the process of notifying all affected users.

Users who had their passwords stolen in this recent data breach should change their password and the password of any other accounts that share the same password. Also, switch to a nine to ten-character passphrase. They are easier to remember and harder for hackers to guess.

ArbiterSports

ArbiterSports is used by many for end-to-end activities management solution. However, some users of the officiating software company were notified of a data breach that exposed account usernames and passwords, names, addresses, dates of birth, email addresses and Social Security numbers. According to the company’s notification letter, ArbiterSports recently detected unauthorized access to certain devices in their network and an attempt to encrypt their systems.

After an investigation, the company learned the unauthorized party obtained a backup copy of a database made for business continuity reasons. The database contained PII for over 539,000 users. While ArbiterSports was able to prevent their devices from being encrypted, the unauthorized party still demanded payment in exchange for deleting the files. The two reached an agreement, and the files were deleted.

ArbiterSports is offering a free one-year membership of Experian’s IdentityWorks Credit 3B to detect possible misuse of personal information and to provide identity protection focused on identification and resolution of identity theft. Anyone affected should also change their username and password, as well as the username or password of any other accounts that share the same credentials. 

notifiedTM

For more information about recent data breaches, consumers and businesses should visit the ITRC’s new data breach tracking tool, notified. It is updated daily and free to consumers. Organizations that need comprehensive breach information for business planning or due diligence can access as many as 90 data points through one of the three paid notified subscriptions. Subscriptions help ensure the ITRC’s identity crime services stay free.

Contact the ITRC If you believe you are the victim of an identity crime, or your identity has been compromised in a data breach, you can speak with an ITRC expert advisor on the website via live-chat, or by calling toll-free at 888.400.5530. Finally, victims of a data breach can download the free ID Theft Help app to access advisors, resources, a case log and much more.


Read more of our latest breaches below

Fortnite Gaming Data Being Sold for Hundreds of Millions of Dollars Per Year

Online Job Scams See Rise Amid Pandemic

“Meow” Attacks Lead to 4,000 Deleted Databases and Perplexed Security Experts

The coronavirus is making a lasting impact on the United States in many different ways. More than 175,000 people have died from the coronavirus, and 57+ million Americans have filed for unemployment. Another noticeable impact is the dramatic increase in scams and identity theft. There have been more than 92,000 COVID-19 fraud reports and $118+ million lost from fraud, according to the Federal Trade Commission. A story published by the Washington Post reports that no event over the last decade has spawned as many schemes or lasted this long.

Since COVID-19 began seriously affecting the U.S. in March, fraudsters and scammers have been trying to take advantage of the situation to steal or misuse people’s personally identifiable information (PII) in any way possible to commit identity theft. Recently, scammers have been taking advantage of the medical space to commit financial identity theft from COVID-19, using many different methods.

Medicare and Medicaid Scams

There is some good news when it comes to COVID-19 scams. COVID-related phishing scams appear to be on the decline. According to CheckPoint, July saw a 50 percent decrease in COVID-19 scams compared to June. However, CheckPoint reported that COVID-19 medical and vaccine-related scams are still in high demand as the race is on to find a vaccine. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General (HHS-OIG) echoes a similar message. The HHS-OIG says scammers are offering tests to Medicare beneficiaries in exchange for PII, like Medicare and Medicaid information to commit financial identity theft.

The AMAC Foundation is so concerned about the current issue that they and Medicare.gov are sending a notice warning recipients of the scams. The HHS-OIG believes fraudsters are targeting recipients with telemarketing calls, text messages, social media messages and door-to-door visits in their effort to steal PII. PII can be used to bill Federal health care and commit financial identity theft fraudulently.

Insurance Scams

Insurance scams are another financial identity theft concern from COVID-19 with telemedicine being so widely available, as mentioned by the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud. The Coalition warns that costly insurance scams can exploit the burgeoning arms-length telemedicine. Tele-schemes can steal patients’ identities and defraud their insurance policies.

Medical Identity Theft Threat

While fraudsters are using the medical space to commit financial identity theft from COVID-19, there is also a risk of medical identity theft. According to a story published by CBS Dallas, hackers know more people are using the healthcare system, and they know they can take advantage of the situation.

If hackers get their hands on medical records, it could leave a lasting impact. The Senior Director of Threat Hunting and Intelligence at Binary Defense says someone who steals a victim’s identity can go as far as getting an expensive medical procedure done and charge it to the victim’s insurance account. The story suggests consumers give out the bare minimum amount of PII at medical appointments, ensure the provider’s online portals are secure, and ask providers to delete all of their medical records from the database once they are no longer a patient to help reduce their risk of falling victim to identity theft.

What You Can Do

Scammers are using Medicare and Medicaid scams, insurance scams, and a rise in people using the healthcare system to commit identity theft – particularly financial identity theft from COVID-19. However, there are still actions you can take to reduce your risk of falling victim to a COVID-19 scam or financial identity theft.

  • Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries should be cautious of any unsolicited requests for Medicare or Medicaid numbers
  • Keep an eye out for unexpected calls or messages that ask for PII. If someone receives a message with a link or an attachment, do not click or open anything. (NOTE: A physician or trusted health care provider will approve any COVID-19 tests or treatments.)
  • Anyone suspicious of COVID-19 healthcare fraud should report it online to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General or call 800.HHS.TIPS

If you are the victim of financial identity theft from COVID-19, or a COVID-19 scam, you can call the Identity Theft Resource Center toll-free at 888.400.5530. You can also live-chat on our website to speak with an expert advisor.


Read more of our latest news below

Being Able to Identify a Phishing Attack is More Important Now Than Ever

Netflix Email Phishing Scam Could Steal Credit Card Information

Hacked Dating Apps are a Popular Target for Social Engineering Scams

The recent social-good relationship management software data breach has nonprofit organizations left to figure out what to do next. Blackbaud, a cloud software company, used primarily by nonprofits, recently announced that they were the victim of a ransomware attack. The number of people affected is still unknown, and more information needs to be gathered to judge the actual scope of the attack. People who engage with organizations that utilize Blackbaud could be at risk of scams and social engineering.  

What Happened

In May 2020, a ransomware attack was partially thwarted. However, the perpetrator copied a subset of data before being locked out. The hackers then offered to delete the data for an undisclosed amount of money. According to Blackbaud, they paid the ransom and received confirmation that the copy they removed had been destroyed. However, the confirmation was not detailed. Blackbaud says they have no reason to believe that any data went beyond the cybercriminal, was or will be misused. The information exposed in the breach includes telephone numbers, email addresses, dates of birth, mailing addresses, donation dates, donation amounts and other donor profile information. Right now, the University of Detroit Mercy is the only third-party vendor to report Social Security numbers being involved. Blackbaud is now calling the incident a security incident.

How it Can Impact You

While no personally identifiable information (PII) has been reported stolen, aside from at the University of Detroit Mercy, no one knows if there has been more PII stolen except for the hackers. Consumers impacted by the Blackbaud data breach could be at risk of scams (particularly giving and donation scams) and social engineering tactics. Multiple sectors were also impacted by the attack.

Healthcare Sector

Healthcare organizations all over the world use Blackbaud as their cloud software company. According to Blackbaud, 30 of the top 32 largest nonprofit hospitals are powered by their solutions. The Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) has seen multiple data breach notices from healthcare organizations affected by the Blackbaud data breach. Since the breach impacted donors primarily, it could mean those individuals may be more susceptible to being targeted by fraudsters in the future. As of this writing, no personal health information (PHI) has been involved.

Education Sector

Blackbaud plays a significant role in the education sector. They offer school management software to K-12 schools, as well as universities. Some of the management software includes student information, learning management, enrollment management and school websites. Many schools and districts have acknowledged they were impacted by the Blackbaud data breach. Most of the information involved includes donor information, alumni information and student demographic information.

Nonprofit/NGO Sector

Blackbaud is a service that is primarily by nonprofits. Blackbaud offers an array of software services that cater to nonprofits all over the world, but are best known for their customer relationship management (CRM) tools. Many nonprofits use these to nurture their donors and fundraising. The range of types of nonprofits affected by the attack is vast. In fact, some Blackbaud nonprofits continue to come forward about whether or not they may have been impacted. Now, many nonprofits are trying to figure out their next steps for how to securely manage their CRM needs.  

What You Need to Do

The Blackbaud data breach and its impacts on businesses and consumers are specific to each affected entity and customer. Blackbaud has said that it notified its affected customers of the breach, and those customers should be notifying their impacted individuals. Depending on what information was exposed, the steps for those affected individuals could vary. Anyone who receives a notification letter regarding the Blackbaud data breach should not dismiss the letter and take the recommended steps in the notice.

The biggest threat, based on the data compromised, is social engineering. Employees of the nonprofit organizations impacted by the breach may receive emails that look like they are from an executive, in an attempt at spear phishing. Donors and members of the nonprofit organizations impacted by the Blackbaud data breach may receive messages asking to provide their personally identifiable information (PII) to update their contact or financial information, either directly through the email or through a link that does not actually belong to the nonprofit they are affiliated with. If an employee comes across an email they find suspicious, they should go directly back to the person it claimed to come from and verify the validity of the message if it is internal. If it is someone claiming to be from outside the organization, it should be run by their manager, IT services or someone who would be familiar with the relationship.

Anyone who believes they were impacted by the Blackbaud data breach can call the ITRC toll-free at 888.400.5530. They can also live-chat with an expert advisor. Another option if the free ID Theft Help app. The app has resources for victims, a case log, access to an advisor and much more.


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Being Able to Identify a Phishing Attack is More Important Now Than Ever

Netflix Email Phishing Scam Could Steal Credit Card Information

Hacked Dating Apps are a Popular Target for Social Engineering Scams

Significant and negatively impactful data breaches in the healthcare industry have happened for a long time. Back in 2015, Anthem suffered a massive data breach that led to as many as 80 million people having their information stolen. In 2019, third-party billings and collection agency, American Medical Collection Agency (AMCA), suffered a data breach that affected over 24 million people and 20 healthcare entities. That included Quest Diagnostics, who had 11.9 million patients impacted. More recent healthcare data breaches include Florida Orthopaedic Institute, University of Utah Health and PaperlessPay.

What Does it Mean to You?

Data breaches in the healthcare industry continue to happen because of the availability of both personally identifiable information (PII) and personal health information (PHI) available to bad actors. Hackers can do a lot of damage with access to sensitive PHI and PII, like Social Security numbers, health insurance numbers, drivers licenses or identification numbers, medication lists, conditions, diagnoses and financial information. Fraudsters can submit use this data to file fraudulent health insurance claims, apply for medical care and prescription medications, use the information on billing and much more.

According to the Protenus 2020 Breach Barometer, in 2019,  data breaches in the healthcare industry continued to be a problem, involving sensitive patient information, with public reports of hacking jumping 48.6 percent from 2018. The 2020 IBM Report on the average cost of a data breach reported that the most expensive attacks in 2019 occurred in the healthcare sector. According to the Identity Theft Resource Center’s (ITRC) 2019 Data Breach Report, there were 525 medical and healthcare data breaches in 2019, exposing over 39 million sensitive records. The medical and healthcare sector had the second-highest number of breaches and sensitive records exposed of all the sectors the ITRC tracks.

What Can You Do?

Data breaches in the healthcare industry will continue to happen because of the troves of information. However, there are things consumers can do to reduce their risk.

  • Victims should change their username and password for their affected healthcare account
  • Consumers should also change their username and password on any other accounts that have the same username or password as their healthcare account
  • Depending on what piece of PHI is exposed, victims should contact the affected healthcare provider to see what steps need to be taken

Victims of a data breach in the health care industry can call the ITRC toll-free at 888.400.5530 for more information on the next steps they need to take. They can also live-chat with an ITRC expert advisor.

Victims are also encouraged to download the free ID Theft Help app. The app has tools for data breach victims, including a case log to track all of their steps taken, access to helpful resources during the resolution process, instant access to an advisor and much more.


Read more…

Being Able to Identify a Phishing Attack is More Important Now Than Ever

Netflix Email Phishing Scam Could Steal Credit Card Information

Hacked Dating Apps are a Popular Target for Social Engineering Scams

Another week has gone by, and in this week’s Weekly Breach Breakdown, the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) highlights a handful of data compromises that could leave a big impact on businesses and consumers. The ITRC has been tracking publicly-notified U.S. data breaches since 2005 to look for patterns, new trends and any information that could better help educate on the need for understanding the value of protecting personally identifiable information (PII). Some of the data compromises highlighted this week include CVS, Walgreens and Walmart pharmacy data breaches with a unique twist; an athlete recruiting tool; and one state’s taxpayer system. All of these breaches have one thing in common: they are relatively small data events that can still leave a lasting impact.

CVS, Walgreens and Walmart Pharmacy Data Breaches

Three well-known companies suffered from individual pharmacy data breaches. It wasn’t a cyberattack or failure to secure their electronic records; instead, some of their stored health information was physically stolen, leaving the potential for a serious impact on the individuals whose information was exposed. During recent protests in several cities, pharmacies owned by Walmart, Walgreens and CVS were looted. Paper files and computer equipment containing customer information was taken from individual stores, not the companies at-large. The missing information included prescriptions, consent forms, birth dates, addresses, medications and physician information. All three companies affected by the pharmacy data breaches notified impacted patients, but only CVS released the number of customers involved – 21,289.

Front Rush Data Compromise

The next data compromise includes student-athlete recruiting tool, Front Rush. Front Rush recently notified 61,000 athletes and coaches that their information was open to the internet due to a misconfigured cloud database for four years. In a notice to individuals impacted, Front Rush acknowledged that they could not tell if anyone accessed or removed any PII while it was exposed to the web from 2016-2020. Some of the personal information in the database included: Social Security numbers, Driver’s Licenses, student IDs, passports, financial accounts, credit card information, birth certificates and health insurance information.

The Vermont Department of Taxes Data Compromise

The state of Vermont recently notified more than 70,000 taxpayers that the online credentials they used to file certain types of tax forms had been exposed on the internet since 2017. State officials say they lacked the tools to tell if the information was downloaded from their systems by threat actors, but they believe the risk of an identity crime is low. However, the State Department of Taxes is recommending taxpayers take precautions like monitoring bank and credit accounts, reviewing credit reports and reporting any suspicious activity to local law enforcement.

What it Means

Stolen credentials like logins and passwords, like the information breached in Vermont, are currently the number one cause of data breaches, according to IBM. However, that is tied with misconfigured cloud security that leads to data being exposed to the web, as in Front Rush. Misconfigured cloud security generally means that someone forgot to set up a password or other security tool when they configured the database. Stolen physical records and devices ranks five out of ten on the attack scale for the most common attack vectors.

For more information about the latest data breaches, subscribe to the ITRC’s data breach newsletter.

NotifiedTM

Keep an eye out for the ITRC’s new data breach tracker NotifiedTM. It is updated daily and free to consumers. Businesses that need comprehensive breach information for business planning or due diligence can access as many as 90 data points through one of the ITRC’s three paid subscriptions. Subscriptions help ensure the ITRC’s free identity crime services stay free. Notified launches later this month.

If someone believes they are the victim of identity theft or their information has been compromised in a data breach, they can call the ITRC toll-free at 888.400.5530 to speak with an expert advisor. They can also use live-chat. Finally, victims of a data breach can download the free ID Theft Help app to access advisors, resources, a case log and much more. Join us on our weekly data breach podcast to get the latest perspectives on the last week in breaches. Subscribe to get it delivered on your preferred podcast platform.


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Being Able to Identify a Phishing Attack is More Important Now Than Ever

Netflix Email Phishing Scam Could Steal Credit Card Information

Hacked Dating Apps are a Popular Target for Social Engineering Scams

Another week has gone by, a week full of interesting publicly-reported U.S. data compromises. This week on the Identity Theft Resource Center’s Weekly Breach Breakdown podcast, we are focusing on cyberattacks and data breaches that help us put a price tag on people’s personal information – including EDP Renewables’ ransomware attack, a Twitter data breach that exposed Slack user information and much more.

In the 1980s, hacking started to become a thing. For the most part, hackers were young, smart and motivated by the challenge of breaking into the phone company or the Pentagon. As the ITRC’s COO and podcast host James Lee says, “the payout was street credibility.” Today, hackers are known as threat actors, and they are looking to steal people’s personal information simply because they are motivated by greed. Stealing someone’s personal information is not so much about breaking into someone’s bank account as it is stealing users’ login and passwords from a company to dupe them into paying a fake invoice (from said company) or infecting a company’s systems with ransomware.

Earlier this year, security research firm SentinelOne estimated that ransomware cost U.S. companies $7.5 billion in 2019. That number is expected to increase because the average ransom paid is going up. According to Security Boulevard, in six months between October 2019 and March 2020, the average ransom payment went from $44,000 to more than $110,000 an attack.

Originally, data thieves were content with just locking up a company’s files and walking away if they did not get paid or releasing the files back to the company if they did. Now, however, cybercriminals specializing in ransomware are using more sophisticated attack software and bolder tactics. Attackers are downloading sensitive personal information before they notify their victims instead of just sending a ransom note after locking files, turning a basic cyber hold-up into a classic data breach.

This past week, EDP Renewables, a European energy company that serves 11 million customers in the U.S., confirmed they were the target of a ransomware attack with a $14 million price-tag. Customer information was breached as part of the attack. In ransomware attacks, like EDP Renewables, the stolen information is used as leverage to force companies to pay the attackers. EDP Renewables did not pay. The demands like the one in the EDP Renewables ransomware attack make it easy to calculate the value cybercriminals put on identity information.

Another way to tell the value of personal information is to look at the price data commands in one of the Dark Web’s illicit marketplaces – where stolen information and identities are commerce. Earlier in July, data thieves posted a database of customer information from Live Auctioneers, an auction website that allows people worldwide to bid on auctioned items in real-time. The complete set of 3.4 million records are for sale starting at $2,500.

However, not all data is as valuable as other pieces of information. For example, a credit or debit card could be worth as much as $11 or as little as $1. Workspace tool Slack is learning their user information is not as valuable to data thieves, at least right now. A recent Twitter data breach exposed Slack user information. According to security researchers at KELA Group, 17,000 Slack credentials from 12,000 company workspaces are for sale on the dark web for a little as $0.50 and as much as $300. Despite the cheap low rate, no one is taking advantage of the Slack data from the Twitter data breach – posts offering the Slack credentials are nearly a year old. The reasons why cybercriminals are interested in some data and not interested in other data can vary. However, right now, data thieves are not interested in the Slack user information; because as popular as Slack is with users and Wall Street, Slack channels are rarely filled with the kinds of information cybercriminals want.

For more information about the latest data breaches, people can subscribe to the ITRC’s data breach newsletter. Keep an eye out for the ITRC’s new data breach tool, NotifiedTM. It’s updated daily and free for consumers. Businesses that need access to comprehensive breach information for business planning or due diligence can subscribe to unlock as many as 90 data points through one of three paid tiers. Subscriptions help ensure the ITRC’s free identity crime services stay free. Notified launches in August.

If someone believes they are a victim of identity theft or have been impacted by a data breach, they can call the ITRC toll-free at 888.400.5530 to speak with an expert advisor. They can also use live-chat. Finally, victims of a data breach can download the free ID Theft Help app to access advisors, resources, a case log and much more.

Join us on our weekly data breach podcast to get the latest perspectives on the last week in breaches. Subscribe to get it delivered on your preferred podcast platform.

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Twitter Hack Serves as a Reminder of How Manipulative Bitcoin Scams Can Be

Cyber-Hygiene Tips to Keep Consumers Safe

USS Bonhomme Richard Charitable Giving Scam

Bitcoin scams come in many different forms. Scammers use different platforms to try and get people to pay them in bitcoin (also known as cryptocurrency or digital money). Bitcoin scams are a popular way for fraudsters to trick people into sending money. Recently, they used Twitter and some of its most notable accounts to target Twitter users.

On July 15, hackers compromised verified Twitter accounts and sent cryptocurrency scam tweets requesting bitcoin donations with the promise of doubling the investments to “give back to the community.” Scammers responsible for bitcoin scams not only aim to steal people’s money, but also collect their personally identifiable information (PII) and sell it to other cybercriminals.

According to Twitter, attackers are believed to have targeted certain Twitter employees through a social engineering scheme. Twitter says the attackers successfully manipulated a small number of employees and used their credentials to access Twitter’s internal systems, including getting through their two-factor protections. While Twitter continues their forensic review, they believe the bad actors may have attempted to sell some of the usernames. The hackers are not believed to have viewed previous account passwords. However, they were able to view personal information, including email addresses and phone numbers.

Twitter says nearly 130 accounts were targeted, and 45 successfully hacked. The Twitter accounts hacked include high profile individuals with verified accounts such as Barak Obama, Kanye West, Elon Musk and Bill Gates. Twitter responded by preventing any blue-check marked accounts from tweeting while security teams responded to the attack. Twitter apologized for the attack; the UK’s National Cyber Security Center, whom Twitter officers reached out to for support, released a statement urging people to treat requests for money or PII on social media with extreme caution.

The recent social-engineering hijack of Twitter accounts highlights a larger issue that has been on the increase since COVID-19 began: the prevalence of cryptocurrency scams. According to the Federal Trade Commission, most bitcoin scams appear as emails trying to blackmail someone, online chain-referral schemes or bogus investment/business opportunities. However, no matter how the scam is executed, a scammer wants the victim to either send money, give-up their PII or a combination of these. Once someone engages, there is usually nothing they can do to get their money back.

The Twitter hack creates a teachable moment – what should consumers do to reduce their risk of falling for a bitcoin scam? It also highlights the need for businesses to ensure their employees are educated on social engineering. This incident proves that even the most technologically-advanced companies are not immune from an employee granting access to bad actors. To avoid a bitcoin scam or other forms of social engineering, people should remember the following:

  • Never share PII through social media channels and always verify the person or business asking. While these scams are designed to steal people’s money, they are also designed to collect PII to sell to other cybercriminals.
  • If someone sees a tweet, email, text message or other social media post that asks for payment in bitcoin, it is – most likely – a scam.
  • High profile individuals will not contact anyone to give away large sums of money – especially in bitcoin – by social media message. There are other methods for informing someone if they are a recipient; if an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is.
  • If a consumer receives a message telling him or her it’s a guarantee to make money, it is probably a scam.
  • No one should ever click a link, download a file or open an attachment if they are unsure of who sent it or what it is; they should be cautious of links that are shared on social media.
  • Keep up with the latest around scams and how they work. The Twitter bitcoin scam employed a lot of common cognitive biases. Understanding how bitcoin or cryptocurrency works reduces the number of people who fall for scams about it.

If someone believes they are a victim of a bitcoin scam or has questions about other scams, they can live-chat with an Identity Theft Resource Center expert advisor. They can also call toll-free at 888.400.5530.


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The Unconventional 2020 Data Breach Trends Continue

School District Data Breaches Continue to be a Playground for Hackers

Is This an Amazon Brushing Scam?

People are spending more time on their phones, tablets and computers now than ever, making the importance of cyber-hygiene tips as paramount as they’ve ever been. The Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) wants to highlight some of the best practices and steps that users can take to improve their online security.

We recommend everyone make these cyber-hygiene tips part of their regular routine to greatly reduce their risk of identity theft or other cybersecurity compromises.

1. Use a secure connection and a VPN to connect to the internet

A virtual private network (VPN) is a digital tool that keeps outsiders, such as hackers, identity thieves, spammers and even advertisers from seeing online activity. Users should also be wary of public Wi-Fi. While public Wi-Fi may be convenient, it can have many privacy and security risks that could leave someone vulnerable to digital snoops. If connecting to public Wi-Fi, be sure to use a VPN.

2. Get educated about the terms of service and other policies

It is important to understand what the terms of service and other policies say because, once you check the box, you may have agreed to have your information stored and sold, automatic renewals, location-based monitoring and more.

3. Make sure anti-virus software is running on all devices

It is very important to have anti-virus software running on every device because it is designed to prevent, detect and remove software viruses and other malicious software. It will protect your devices from potential attacks.

4. Set up all online accounts (email, financial, shopping, etc.) with two-factor or multi-factor authentication

Two-factor authentication (2FA) or multi-factor authentication (MFA) adds an extra layer of protection to your accounts; it requires at least two separate verification steps to log into an account. Relying on a minimum of two methods of login credentials before accessing accounts will make it harder for a hacker to gain access.

5. Use secure payment methods when shopping online

One easy cyber-hygiene step is to only shop on trusted websites and use trusted payment methods. Consumers should not use payment portals or shop on websites with which they are not familiar.

Always use a payment instrument that has a dispute resolution process – like a credit card or PayPal – if you have to shop on an unfamiliar site.

6. Use unique passphrases for passwords and do not reuse passwords

The best practice these days is to use a nine to ten-character passphrase instead of an eight-character password. A passphrase is easier to remember and harder for hackers to crack.

Also, users should employ unique passphrases; if they use the same one, hackers can gain access to multiple accounts through tactics like credential stuffing.

7. Never open a link from an unknown source

Do not click on links or download attachments via email or text – unless you are expecting something from someone or a business you know. If it is spam, it could insert malware on your device.

Also, never enter personally identifiable information (PII) or payment information on websites and web forms that are not secure or have not been fully vetted. It could be a portal to steal personal information.

8. Make sure devices are password protected

If devices are not password protected, it is just that much easier for a hacker to share or steal personal information. Without a layer of protection or authentication to access the device, all the information saved on it becomes fair game. Use a PIN code, biometric or pattern recognition to lock your devices and set the same protection for apps that have access to sensitive information like banking or credit cards.

9. Log out of accounts when done

This is another bad habit that makes it much easier for someone to share or steal your information. Always log out of accounts when done so no one can get easy access to them.

While there is nothing that can be done to eliminate identity theft, account takeovers and other malicious intent, these cyber-hygiene tips will help keep consumers safe, as well as reduce the number of cybercrime victims.

For anyone who believes they have been a victim of identity theft or has questions about cyber-hygiene tips, they can call the ITRC toll-free at 888.400.5530 to speak with an expert advisor. They can also live-chat through the website or the free ID Theft Help app.


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The Unconventional 2020 Data Breach Trends Continue

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Each year, about half of U.S. taxpayers rely on a tax preparer and a tax preparation service to help them file their required tax returns. These professionals offer a wide array of options, from a very simple franchise that plugs in the numbers on the consumer’s behalf to certified public accountants that know the ins and outs of the entire U.S. tax code. From accounting firms to walk-in services like H&R Block, TurboTax/Intuit, Credit Karma or Jackson Hewitt, these tax preparation services often have one major similarity: they are a hot target for hackers and identity thieves.

Trusting an outsider with highly-sensitive personal data is not something that people should take lightly. Having a professional take responsibility for the paperwork, helping to navigate the annual changes to tax laws and even assisting in the event of an IRS audit are all reason enough to pay someone to take care of the filing. However, the sheer volume of personally identifiable information (PII) that a tax preparer must collect and store means there are literal treasure troves of identities waiting to be compromised by a malicious actor.

There are plenty of ways that stolen PII from a tax preparation service can benefit a hacker. First, accessing a stolen return not only means the hacker can file the return for themselves and steal any refunds the consumer was expecting, it also means having the ability to file a fraudulent return every year. Hackers can cause even more harm with information gleaned from a tax preparer’s computer; credential stuffing is another major concern, as the complete information they might steal can be used to access the victim’s other accounts.

There are some important steps that consumers can take to protect themselves when using a tax preparation service. First, people should only choose a professional tax preparer who has a valid IRS Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN), but also understand that there are many different services, ability-levels and offerings that a professional can provide. It is also important for a consumer to find out what the preparer’s credentials are—such as having an accounting degree or being a member of a professional organization—before signing on to work with them. Consumers should not hesitate to ask what information the preparer will be able to access, how that information will be stored and for how long, who will be able to access that information and other related questions. There have been many situations where tax preparation services and professionals have been the target of malicious actors and understanding how they are going to safeguard information is just as important as their capabilities.

More guidelines from the IRS are available, but consumers are also cautioned to begin using a nine to ten character passphrase in place of the traditional eight-character password. A passphrase is longer and easier to remember, which makes it both harder for fraudsters to guess and more likely that consumers will deploy a different passphrase for each account.

If someone falls victim to identity theft from a data breach, they can live-chat with an Identity Theft Resource Center expert advisor through the organization’s website, as well as call toll-free at 888.400.5530 for an action plan that is customized to their needs. The free ID Theft Help App for iOS and Android also provides a number of resources for consumers to use in the event of a data breach or suspected identity theft.


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