Posts

  • The Identity Theft Resource Center’s (ITRC) 2020 Data Breach Report shows 62 percent of cyberattacks that led to data breaches in 2020 involved phishing and ransomware.  
  • Google and Stanford University study reveals that people with more than one device are more likely to be struck by a phishing attempt. It also says that Australia is the most targeted country for phishing attacks
  • Proofpoint Security study says people who had personal data exposed in a third-party breach were five times more likely to be targeted by phishing or malware. 
  • All three reports make the same point about the rise in phishing attacks – a data breach does not mean someone’s identity has been misused. It means people impacted are at increased risk of becoming an identity crime victim. 
  • For information about recent data breaches, consumers and businesses should visit the ITRC’s new data breach tracking tool, notified
  • For more information, or if someone believes they are the victim of identity theft, consumers can contact the ITRC toll-free at 888.400.5530 or via live-chat on the company website www.idtheftcenter.org.  

Welcome to the Identity Theft Resource Center’s (ITRC) Weekly Breach Breakdown for February 12, 2021. Each week, we look at the most recent and interesting events and trends related to data security and privacy. This week we talk about what seems to be the average cybercriminals’ favorite pastime – phishing and the rise in phishing attacks. Phishing with a ph. In Troilus & Cressida, Shakespeare’s incredibly complex play about the Trojan War, the main character compares the great lengths some people go to deceive the search for the other kind of fishing that gives rise to our episode title: 

Whiles others fish with craft for great opinion, 

I with great truth catch mere simplicity 

ITRC 2020 Data Breach Report & the Rise in Phishing Attacks 

Two weeks ago, the ITRC released our annual data breach analysis, which pointed out that 62 percent of cyberattacks that led to data breaches in 2020 involved phishing and ransomware. Phishing was in the number one position because it is a simple attack to execute. 

Google and Stanford University Study Reveals New Phishing Attack Findings 

This week, Google and Stanford University released a new study that looked at the 1.2 billion phishing emails aimed at Gmail users during a five-month period in 2020. Among the findings: 

  • People are more at risk of a phishing attempt if they have more than one device. If someone only has a desktop or laptop, or only has a smartphone, they are less likely to be a target. The conclusion is if someone has multiple devices, they have more of an online presence. It is the same if someone sends a lot of emails – they are five times more likely to be phished if they do. 
  • Older users are targeted more frequently than younger people. Someone between the ages of 55-64-years-old is 1.6 times more likely to be the target of a phishing scheme than someone who is 18-24-years-old. One potential reason is that the older someone gets, the bigger their footprint, which makes them easier to find. 

People in Australia are More Likely to be Targeted by a Phishing Attack 

Who in the world do you think is the most targeted country? This will surprise you. While U.S. residents send more emails by volume than any other country, people in Australia are more likely to be targeted for a phishing attack than anyone else. In fact, the odds are nearly double that they will be phish bait down under.  

The U.S is number 16 when it comes to the likelihood of being targeted on a country adjusted basis. This is the point where we need to ask once again – why is there a rise in phishing attacks? 

Third-Party Breaches and Their Impact on the Rise in Phishing Attacks 

Proofpoint Security reported this week a 14 percent increase in malicious phishing emails in 2020 over the previous year. Here is the truly staggering statistic: People who had personal data exposed in a third-party breach were five times more likely to be targeted by phishing or malware, according to the report, which highlights just how damaging these types of data breaches can be, even in the long run. 

What the Reports Mean for Consumers  

The report comes on the heels of the announcement of the release in an identity marketplace of the largest set of logins and passwords ever compiled. Around 3.2 billion credentials were stolen in previous data breaches and bundled in a single file. All of these reports – from the ITRC, Google and Stanford University, and Proofpoint make the same point – a data breach does not mean someone’s identity has been misused. It means people those impacted are at increased risk of becoming an identity crime victim. 

To quote Proofpoint: 

“Our results suggest that data breaches expose users to lasting harms due to the lack of viable remediation options.” 

Contact the ITRC 

If anyone has questions about protecting their information from data breaches and data exposures before they happen, visit www.idtheftcenter.org, where there are helpful tips on phishing attacks and many other topics – including the 2020 Data Breach Report

If someone believes they have already been the victim of an identity crime or a data breach and needs help figuring out what to do next, contact us to speak with an expert advisor on the phone (888.400.5530), chat live on the web or exchange emails during our normal business hours (6 a.m.-5 p.m. PST). Just visit www.idtheftcenter.org to get started.  

Be sure to check out the most recent episode of our sister podcast – The Fraudian Slip – with a special guest from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). We will be back next week for another Weekly Breach Breakdown. 

In 2020, the number of individuals impacted by a data breach was down 66 percent from 2019; cybercriminals continue to shift away from mass attacks seeking consumer information and towards attacks aimed at businesses using stolen logins and passwords  

SAN DIEGO, January 28, 2021 – Today, the Identity Theft Resource Center® (ITRC), a nationally recognized non-profit organization established to support victims of identity crime, released its 15th annual Data Breach Report. According to the report, the number of U.S. data breaches tracked in 2020 (1,108) decreased 19 percent from the total number of breaches reported in 2019 (1,473). In 2020, 300,562,519 individuals were impacted by a data breach, a 66 percent decrease from 2019.  

The 2020 Data Breach Report shows the continuation of a trend from 2019: cybercriminals are less interested in stealing large amounts of consumers’ personal information. Instead, threat actors are more interested in taking advantage of bad consumer behaviors to attack businesses using stolen credentials like logins and passwords. Due to the shift in tactics, ransomware and phishing attacks directed at organizations are now the preferred data theft method by cyberthieves.  

Ransomware and phishing attacks require less effort, are largely automated, and generate much higher payouts than taking over individuals’ accounts. One ransomware attack can generate as much revenue in minutes as hundreds of individual identity theft attempts over months or years. According to Coveware, the average ransomware payout has grown from less than $10,000 per event in Q3 2018 to more than $233,000 per event in Q4 2020. 

Download the ITRC’s 2020 Data Breach Report 

“While it is encouraging to see the number of data breaches, as well as the number of people impacted by them decline, people should understand that this problem is not going away,” said Eva Velasquez, president and CEO of the Identity Theft Resource Center. “Cybercriminals are simply shifting their tactics to find a new way to attack businesses and consumers. It is vitally important that we adapt our practices, and shift resources, to stay one step ahead of the threat actors. Although resources continue to decline for victims of identity crimes, the ITRC will continue to help impacted individuals by providing guidance on the best ways to navigate the dangers of all types of identity crimes.” 

One notable case study highlighted in the ITRC’s 2020 Data Breach Report is the ransomware attack on Blackbaud, a technology services company used by non-profit, health and education organizations. A professional ransomware group stole information belonging to more than 475 Blackbaud customers before informing the company the information was being held hostage. The stolen information included personal information relating to more than 11 million people that was later reported to have been destroyed by the cybercriminals after Blackbaud paid a ransom.  

Another notable finding was that supply chain attacks are becoming increasingly popular with attackers since they can access the information of larger organizations or multiple organizations through a single, third-party vendor. Often, the organization is smaller, with fewer security measures than the companies they serve.  

To learn more about the latest data breaches, visit the ITRC’s interactive data breach tracking tool, notified. It is updated daily and free to consumers.  

For anyone that has been a victim of a data breach, the ITRC recommends downloading its free ID Theft Help app to manage the various aspects of an individual’s data breach case. 

Consumers and victims can receive free support and guidance from a knowledgeable live-advisor by calling 888.400.5530 or visiting idtheftcenter.org to live-chat. 

About the Identity Theft Resource Center  

Founded in 1999, the Identity Theft Resource Center® (ITRC) is a non-profit organization established to empower and guide consumers, victims, business and government to minimize risk and mitigate the impact of identity compromise and crime. Through public and private support, the ITRC provides no-cost victim assistance and consumer education through its website live-chat idtheftcenter.org, toll-free phone number 888.400.5530, and ID Theft Help app. The ITRC also equips consumers and businesses with information about recent data breaches through its data breach tracking tool, notified.   

Media Contact 

Identity Theft Resource Center 
Alex Achten 
Earned & Owned Media Specialist 
888.400.5530 Ext. 3611 
media@idtheftcenter.org  

*Updated as of 1/5/2021

  • More stimulus payments are on the way. Scammers are aware, too, which means another round of stimulus payment-related scams.  
  • Remember, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will not text, email or call anyone about a stimulus payment. If someone receives an unsolicited message from someone claiming to be with the IRS, it is probably a scam. Consumers should contact the IRS directly to verify before they respond. 
  • Offers that require people to pay to receive a stimulus benefit or to use a service to get a payment faster are also signs of a stimulus payment scam. 
  • Consumers can track their new stimulus checks once they are sent. Then can visit the IRS “Get My Payment” page to follow their payments.  
  •  To learn more about stimulus payment scams, the new stimulus payment or if someone suspects they are the victim of a stimulus scam, they can contact the Identity Theft Resource Center toll-free at 888.400.5530 or by live-chat on the company website.  

New Stimulus Payments Approved by Lawmakers 

Lawmakers have agreed on a new stimulus package, which includes a $600 stimulus payment for anyone who earns $75,000 or less. There is also a reduced payment for anyone who makes $75,000-$99,000. New stimulus checks mean more scams are on the way. With more stimulus payment fraud expected, consumers should know how to spot a scam and what to do if an identity criminal contacts them.  

In the spring of 2020, the first batch of stimulus payments assisted Americans in need of financial relief due to the economic impacts of COVID-19. Criminals took advantage of the situation by offering to help benefit recipients speed access to their stimulus funds. Criminals stole checks from nursing home residents, out of people’s mailboxes, and even from postal trucks. The Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) has already seen some of those methods used to steal identity information and stimulus payments the second time around. The ITRC has also had a sharp rise in reported stolen stimulus payments and stimulus payment scams cases.

As of January 3, 2021, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) had logged more than 298,000 consumer complaints related to COVID-19 and stimulus payments totaling more than $253 million in losses. Two-thirds of the complaints involved fraud or identity theft. The median fraud loss per person is $324.

Possible Stimulus Payment Scams 

Criminals have used different schemes to trick people, and they can be expected to do the same this time, too. Here are a few things for people to watch for that indicate that someone might be the target of a stimulus payment scam: 

  • Text messages and emails about stimulus payments – Criminals use text messages and emails to send malicious links in hopes that people will click on them to divulge personal information or insert malware onto someone’s device. If anyone receives a text message or email about a stimulus check or direct deposit with a link to click or a file to open, they should ignore it. It’s a scam because the IRS will not contact anyone unsolicited by text, email or phone to discuss a stimulus payment. 
  • Asked to verify financial information – The IRS will not call, text or email anyone to verify their information. If information needs to be confirmed, people will be directed to an IRS web page. This includes retirees who might not typically file a tax return.  
  • A fake check in the mail – Anyone who earns $75,000 or less will get $600 per dependent.  People who make between $75,000-$99,000 will receive a reduced amount. Anyone who gets a check and has questions about the amount, or thinks the check seems suspicious, should contact the IRS.  
  • Offers for faster payments – Any claim offering payment faster through a third-party is a scam. All new stimulus checks will come from the IRS, and the IRS says there is no way to expedite a payment.  
  • Pay to get a check – No one has to pay to receive a stimulus check. New stimulus checks will be deposited directly into the same banking account used for previous stimulus payments or the most recent tax refund. If the IRS does not have someone’s direct deposit information, a check will be mailed to the last known address on file at the IRS.
  • Stolen checks – The ITRC has received numerous complaints from consumers about their stimulus checks being stolen. If anyone believes their payment is stolen, they should visit IDTheft.gov, where they can report, “Someone filed a Federal tax return – or claimed an economic stimulus payment – using my information.”

What to Do If You’re a Victim of Stimulus Payment Scams 

 If anyone believes their information may have been compromised or their stimulus payment was stolen, the IRS suggests people report it to the IRS and FTC simultaneously through IdentityTheft.gov. If anyone wants to learn more about stimulus payment scams or if someone believes they are the victim of a stimulus payment scam, they may also contact the Identity Theft Resource Center toll-free. Consumers can call (888.400.5530) or live-chat on the website. People can go to www.idtheftcenter.org to get started.

  • The 2020 COVID-19 holiday season is upon us. This year, consumers should be on the lookout for job scamsgiving scamsgrandparent scams and online shopping scams, to name a few.  
  • If anyone comes across an unknown message regarding the COVID-19 holiday season, they should ignore it and go directly back to the source to confirm the message’s legitimacy. 
  • People should take steps to protect their personal information when shopping online, taking part in holiday gatherings (both in person or via a video platform), at the gas pump, and when receiving electronic gifts. 
  • To learn more, contact the Identity Theft Resource Center toll-free at 888.400.5530 or via live-chat on the company website.  

COVID-19 has changed the way people live. Many people are working from home, there are restrictions on what people can do in public, and many businesses remain shut down or open at a limited capacity. It has also changed the way scammers attack consumers. 

The 2020 holiday season will also be much different than year’s past. According to IBM’s latest U.S. Retail Index Report, COVID-19 has accelerated the shift away from physical stores to digital shopping by roughly five years. 

Criminals may adopt new tactics to take advantage of the pandemic, but what will not be different is scammers’ and identity thieves’ ability to find ways to strike.  

Watch for COVID-19 Holiday Scams   

Here are some scams to watch for this COVID-19 holiday season. 

1. Job Scams – Much of the economy remains shut down or open in a limited capacity. Millions of people are looking to gig economy jobs like Uber, Lyft and DoorDash to get by. People could rely on gig economy jobs even more during the holidays to make extra cash. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reported losses of $134 million in 2019 to social media scams.

In the first half of 2020, the FTC already reported $117 million, with most scams coming from viewing an ad. Scammers may claim in advertisements that they can get shoppers access to premium jobs for the holidays with big tips in exchange for an upfront fee. Gig economy scams can also lead consumers to phishing websites that steal login credentials. 

2. Giving Scams – People typically give more to charities around the holiday season. However, with more families in need of help in 2020, we may see an even bigger increase in people making donations. Expect criminals to attack with giving scams, looking to steal people’s money and personal information. In fact, scammers have used giving scams to take advantage of people since the beginning of the pandemic.  

3. Grandparent Scams – Another popular holiday scam is the grandparent scam. A grandparent scam is where scammers claim a family member is in trouble and needs help. With the holidays here, scammers could pose as sick family members. 

4. Online Shopping Scams – Many more people will be shopping online this holiday season. According to the Better Business Bureau (BBB), 65 percent of people shopped online last year. This year, online shopping is expected to increase by 10 percent to 75 percent. With the increase in web traffic, consumers should be wary of messages claiming they have been locked out of their accounts. Scammers may send phishing emails making such claims while looking to steal usernames, passwords and account information.  

How to Protect Yourself from COVID-19 Holiday Scams 

While scammers will try to trick consumers, there are things people can do to protect themselves from a COVID-19 holiday scam. 

  • If someone comes across an ad for a job or a deal online that seems too good to be true, it probably is. Consumers should go back to the source directly by contacting the company to confirm the message’s validity. 
  • If someone receives an email, text message or phone call they are not expecting, ignore it. If any of the messages contain links, attachments or files, do not click or download them because they could have malware designed to steal people’s personal information or lead to a phishing attack. Again, consumers should reach out directly to who the caller, email sender or text message sender claimed to be or the company they claimed to be with.  
  • People should only donate to legitimate charities and organizations registered with their state.   Consumers can determine if a charity, non-profit or company is legitimate by searching for the charity’s charitable registration information on the Secretary of State’s website, looking for online reviews and Googling the entity with the word “scam” after it. 
  • No one should ever make a payment over the phone to someone they do not know or were not expecting to hear from. Scammers will try to trick people with robocalls to steal their sensitive information and commit identity theft. 

How to Protect Your Personally Identifiable Information (PII) This Holiday Season 

Identity Thieves will try different ways to steal people’s PII. It is crucial consumers can protect their PII during the holidays, and year-round, to make sure it does not end up in the hands of a criminal.  

1. At the Pump – More people will travel by car this year than usual. Travelers on the road should keep an eye out for gas station skimmers. Skimmers insert a thin film into the card reader or use a Bluetooth device at a gas pump to steals the card’s information that allows the thief to misuse the payment card account. If the pump looks tampered with, pay inside. Newer gas pumps use contactless technology and chipped payment cards that are very secure. Use those pumps if possible.  

2. Holiday Gatherings – It is always important to protect all personal information at holiday gatherings. While no one ever imagines a trusted friend or family member will go through their stuff, people fall victim every year. Keep wallets or purses with financial cards or I.D. cards within reach.  

3. Zoom and Other Online Video Platforms – Not all family gatherings will be in person in 2020 due to COVID-19. Some families will meet virtually via a video platform. When people use a video platform, it’s important they remember to secure the call by using strict privacy settings and not sharing any personal information with someone they don’t know.  

4. Shopping Online – With more people shopping online for the 2020 holiday season, people need to practice good cyber hygiene. Make sure to navigate directly to a retailer’s website rather than click on a link in an ad, email, text or social media post. Phishing schemes are very sophisticated these days and spotting a spoofed website of well-known and local brands can be difficult even for trained cybersecurity professionals. 

Consumers will still need to do their due diligence to ensure a business website is legitimate. There is inherently less risk of falling for a scam website by shopping at well-known retailers. It only takes a bit of homework to separate the scams from legitimate small online businesses. Using search terms like “Scam” or “Complaints” along with the website or company name can give people insight into the experience of other customers. 

When setting up a new online account, be sure to use multi-factor authentication. Multi-factor authentication creates a second layer of security to reduce the risk of a criminal taking over someone’s account. 

5. Electronic Gifts – With the advent of smart home devices, many gifts connect to the internet, presenting security risks. It is important consumers update the software on the device. It is also a good idea to have antivirus software installed on any computer, tablet or internet device if possible, along with a secure password on the home network router.  

For more information on how to stay safe during the COVID-19 holiday season contact the Identity Theft Resource Center toll-free at 888.400.5530 or live-chat with an identity theft advisor at no-cost.

For access to more resources, download the ITRC’s free ID Theft Help app.  


COVID-19 Could Lead to Increase in Travel Loyalty Account Takeover

Travel Safe with These Cybersecurity Protection Tips

Mystery Shopper Scams Resurface during COVID-19

  • The software provider behind some of the largest travel websites, Prestige Software, maintained a cloud database without a password. The unsecured database led to approximately 10 million accounts being available to view online to anyone who knew where to look.  
  • Prestige Software provides technology services to Booking.com, Expedia, Hotels.com, Sabre and other hotel reservation websites around the world. Information included credit card details, payment details and reservation details dating back to 2013.  
  • While there is no evidence the exposed information is being misused, travel website users should change their passwords on their accounts (our experts suggest enacting a passphrase), add two-factor authentication, freeze their credit, monitor their bank statements for any unusual activity and keep an eye out for phishing attempts.  
  • For more information, contact the Identity Theft Resource Center toll-free at 888.400.5530 or live-chat on the company website. 
  • For the latest on data breaches, visit the ITRC’s data breach tracking tool notifiedTM

Subscribe to the Weekly Breach Breakdown Podcast 

Every week the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) looks at some of the top data compromises from the previous week and other relevant privacy and cybersecurity news in our Weekly Breach Breakdown Podcast. This week, we look at the all too frequent event in the world of data – unsecured databases. 

A Lack of Secure Online Databases 

In the context of data protection, repeating the same mistake can have significant consequences. It is why cybersecurity professionals tend to focus on preventing data breaches. That requires them to continually adapt their strategies and tactics to match those of the treat actors who are frequently attacking company systems.  

 Securing online databases continues to slip away from cybersecurity teams. The software provider behind some of the world’s largest travel websites maintained a cloud database without a password, leading to 10 million accounts being available online for access by anyone who knew where to look.  

Forensic researchers believe the available information dates back to 2013 and only relates to hotel reservations. While the information contained in the unsecured database could be used to commit several identity crimes and fraud, right now, there is no evidence the information has been copied and removed from the database. Also, right now, there are no reports of the data being used. 

Software Provider Behind Large Travel Websites Leaves Database Unsecured 

Prestige Software provides technology services to websites that many consumers may have used, including: 

  • Booking.com 
  • Expedia 
  • Hotels.com 
  • Sabre (The reservation system used by American Airlines) 
  • Other hotel reservation websites & mobile apps 

The cloud database was hosted in an Amazon Web Services (AWS) environment that included basic security protections. However, they were not configured. Prestige Software confirmed the database was open to the internet and is now secured.  

Information Exposed Due to Unsecure Prestige Software Database 

The information stored in the unsecured database included large amounts of personal information like full names, email addresses, national I.D. numbers and phone numbers of hotel guests. Additional information stored includes: 

Credit card details: card number, cardholder’s name, CVV and expiration date 

Payment details: total cost of hotel reservations 

Reservation details: reservation number, dates of a stay, the price paid per night, additional requests made by guests, number of people, guest names and much more 

What Impacted Consumers Need To Do 

Consumers who have used these travel websites should assume that any information they shared since 2013 is in the wild and available to be misused in identity crimes, fraud and phishing schemes. Consumers should act as if they have already received a breach notice due to the unsecured database and take the necessary steps to protect their personal information

  • Change your passwords on the travel accounts to a longer, memorable passphrase. Make sure it is unique to the account. Do not use the same passphrase on more than only one account because it helps the bad guys. 
  • Add two-factor authentication. 
  • Freeze your creditif you haven’t already, and monitor your credit card statements for unusual activity over the next few months. 
  • Keep an eye out for phishing attemptsespecially related to any websites affected by this breach or other travel-related websites. Remember, the best protection is to never click on unsolicited links. If you are unsure, contact the company directly.  

How It Impacts Prestige Software 

For the company, the impacts of the lapse in cybersecurity could be significant. Prestige Software is based in Spain and subject to the European Union’s strict privacy and cybersecurity law, known as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Companies found to have failed to protect consumer information are subject to significant fines up to four percent of their annual revenue.  

Also, companies that process credit cards are subject to self-regulations. The penalty for failing to comply with the Payment Card Industry (PCI) standards include, in some cases, a company losing the right to process debit and credit cards. It is surprising that we have to continue to remind companies of a simple fact: Companies are responsible for securing their cloud environments, not cloud platform providers like Amazon, IBM, Microsoft or any other cloud services companies. Cloud hosts will make basic tools available, but companies have to use them. Also, companies are still responsible for patching their applications and maintaining their advanced cybersecurity tools.  

notifiedTM  

For information about recent data breaches, consumers and businesses should visit the ITRC’s new data breach tracking tool, notifiedTM. 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 have been affected by the Prestige Software database exposure and want to learn more or think you’re the victim of an identity crime, contact the ITRC at no-cost by calling 888.400.5530 or by live-chat on the company website. Also, download the free ID Theft Help App to access 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. 


Timberline, BankSight and MAXEX Headline the Most Notable Data Breaches in October

California Voters Pass Strongest Privacy Law in the U.S. – The California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA)

Reports Show Consumer Privacy and Cybersecurity Views Have Evolved

  • The Federal Trade Commission reports that people who lost money to scams that started on social media has more than tripled in 2020, with a significant increase in the second quarter of the year. 
  • The increase in social media scams fits the overall 2020 trend of more phishing scams on channels besides email. 
  • Some recent social media scams include romance scamsfake advertisements, and social media messages offering grant money or giveaways. 
  • To reduce the risk of falling for a social media scam, don’t click on any links from unknown messages, do research on any ad seen on social media, and never send money to someone you’ve never met in person. 
  • To learn more, contact the Identity Theft Resource Center toll-free at 888.400.5530, or speak with an expert advisor via live-chat on the company website. 

There is an increase of social media scams in 2020, fitting the overall trend of the year of more phishing scams on channels besides email. Scams strike people in many different ways, ranging from robocalls to phishing attacks. While social media websites are another platform scammers use for their attacks, it’s not always the first place people think to monitor when they hear the phrase “phishing scams.” 

Scammers Take Advantage of More People Online During COVID-19 

However, 2020 is different. Social media is already a great place to connect, but especially right now due to COVID-19. More people are using social media, and scammers are aware. In fact, more scammers are hanging out on the sites, posing a greater threat for scams to users. Scammers know COVID-19 changes the way people live, and they try to take advantage in any way possible. 

New Report on Increase in Social Media Scams 

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reports that people who lost money to scams that started on social media has more than tripled in 2020, with a significant increase in the second quarter of the year. The FTC says the growth has been happening for years, reporting social media scam fraud losses of $134 million in 2019.  

However, the first half of 2020 had $117 million in fraud losses from social media scams alone. Some recent social media scams include romance scamsfake advertisements, and social media messages offering grant money or giveaways. Often, scammers create fake profiles of people victims may know to take advantage of them. In some cases, scammers will even take over a real person’s account. 

How to Avoid a Social Media Scam 

Consumers can do a handful of things to reduce their risk of falling victim to a social media scam.  

  1. Check the validity of any ad you see on social media. Do a quick Google search of the supposed business followed by “complaints,” “reviews” or “scam.” This will help you determine whether or not the company has been reported or accused of any suspicious activity. Also, directly search for the company website. Any legitimate company will most likely have contact information on their webpage. 
  1. Never click on a link or open an attachment without verifying the validity of the message or ad. You can do this by directly reaching out to the company to see if they sent the message or posted the ad. If not, it is probably a scam. If you cannot find any contact information for the company, it is probably a scam. 
  1. Reach out directly by phone or email to the friend or family member asking for money or personal information. If they did not send the message, the sender’s account was probably hacked. 
  1. Never send money or personal information to someone you have never met in person. Imposter scams, where scammers try to trick people into giving up personal information or money by posing as someone fake, continue to rise throughout the country.  
  1. Regularly check your privacy settings on all of your social media platforms. Make it more challenging for scammers to target you by limiting what you share online. 

Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center 

Consumers should be aware of the 2020 trend around scams and that scammers will continue to hang out in the social media space. However, if everyone does their part, they can still enjoy the platforms with minimal risk of falling for a social media scam.  

To learn more, or if you believe you are the victim of a social media scam, reach out to the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) toll-free at 888.400.5530 or by live-chat on the company website. Also, download the ITRC’s free ID Theft Help app for access to additional resources. 


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Phishing Attack Report Reveals Microsoft is the Top Spoofed Brand and Other Data Breach News

New VPN Security Vulnerability Could Affect Businesses and Consumers

Election Scams Begin to Surface with the General Election Less than One Month Away

  • A new CheckPoint report shows that 44 percent of all phishing attacks involve emails that use Microsoft as the spoofed brand. Microsoft was the brand used as bait in 19 percent of all forms of phishing last quarter. 
  • Barnes & Noble acknowledged what they initially thought was a systems error earlier in October turned out to be a cyberattack on some of its systems. 
  • Cyberthieves posted three million credit cards for sale on the dark web earlier in the month stolen from Dickey’s BBQ restaurant chain throughout 2019 and 2020. 
  • Darkside announced they donated $20,000 in bitcoins to two global charities. Darkside claims they do not attack schools, hospitals or governments, and instead focus on highly profitable, large corporations. 
  • If you are the victim of a phishing attack or data compromise, contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for no-cost assistance at 888.400.5530 or by live-chat on the company website. 

A new report reveals how frequently identity criminals use well-known brands to trick people into sharing their personal information. CheckPoint Security researchers say one company has jumped to the top of the heap when it comes to fake emails and fake websites involved in brand phishing attacks – Microsoft.  

Subscribe to the Weekly Breach Breakdown Podcast 

Every week, the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) looks at some of the top data compromises from the previous week and other relevant cybersecurity news in our Weekly Breach Breakdown podcast. This week, we take a look at CheckPoint’s latest survey and what it means, as well as two data compromises that recently prompted consumer notices, and a ransomware group donating to charities.  

Brand Phishing Attacks 

There are different types of phishing attacks. What is a brand phishing attack? In this attack style, a cybercriminal imitates a well-known brand’s official website by using a web address and webpage design similar to the real thing. A link to the fake website is then sent to people by email, text message, or social media.

The fake webpage often contains a form intended to steal the credentials, payment details, or other personal information of the people caught in the phisher’s net.  

While many of the spoofed websites are fake with poor spelling or grammar, these emails, websites, texts and social media accounts are increasingly sophisticated and highly accurate imitations that even trained professionals don’t spot at first glance. 

Report Reveals Microsoft as the Top Spoofed Brand 

CheckPoint’s current report shows that 44 percent of all phishing attacks involve emails that use Microsoft as the spoofed brand. Forty-three percent of all types of phishing attacks involve fake websites, and Microsoft is again the number one brand used to lure unsuspecting users.

As tolled, Microsoft was the brand used as bait in 19 percent of all forms of phishing last quarter.  

However, Microsoft is not the only brand in the crosshairs of cybercriminals. The rest of the top ten brands currently being used in phishing campaigns include: 

  • Google (nine percent) 
  • PayPal (six percent) 
  • Netflix (six percent) 
  • Facebook (five percent) 
  • Apple (five percent) 
  • WhatsApp (five percent) 
  • Amazon (four percent) 
  • Instagram (four percent) 

How to Avoid a Phishing Attack 

The best way to avoid falling victim to all types of phishing attacks is to ignore unsolicited emails and texts that include links. If anyone receives a notice from a company where they do business, they should log in directly to their account to verify the message they received was real.

Anyone who gets a notice can also go to the company website directly and contact them. Under no circumstances should anyone click on a link or call a telephone number in an unexpected email.  

Barnes & Noble Data Compromise 

We also want to tell you about two recent data compromises that led to consumer notices. Barnes & Noble – the online brick and mortar bookseller – acknowledged what they initially thought was a systems error earlier in October was, in fact, a cyberattack on some of the company’s systems.

Customer email addresses, billing and shipping addresses, telephone numbers and transaction histories may have been involved in the security breach. Barnes & Noble says there is no evidence of a data exposure. However, they are not ruling out the possibility. 

Dickey’s BBQ Data Compromise 

The Barnes & Noble breach is different from the circumstances at the Dickey’s BBQ restaurant chain. Cyberthieves posted three million credit cards for sale on the dark web earlier in the month stolen from the popular eatery throughout 2019 and 2020. Security researchers believe 156 Dickey’s locations across 30 states likely had payment systems compromised by card-stealing software.  

“Darkside” Ransomware Group Tries to Claim its Legitimacy 

Finally, the ransomware group known as “Darkside” is trying its hand at brand building just like a legitimate company. This week Darkside announced they had donated $20,000 in bitcoins to two global charities. Darkside claims they do not attack schools, hospitals or governments, and instead focus on highly profitable, large corporations.  

Security researcher Chris Clements notes, “The most troubling realization here is that the cybercriminals have made so much money through extortion that donating $20,000 is chump change to them.”  

Neither of the two charities has acknowledged receiving the donation and say they will not keep it if it turns out to be true. 

notifiedTM 

For more information about recent data breaches, consumers and businesses should visit the ITRC’s new data breach tracking tool, notifiedTM. 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 accidentally click on a link of a brand phishing attack or provide information to what you discover later was a fake website form, contact the ITRC toll-free at 888.400.5530 or live-chat with an expert advisor on the company website. An advisor will walk you through the steps to take to protect yourself from any possible identity misuse. 

If you receive a breach notice due to the Barnes & Noble or Dickey’s BBQ events or any other data compromise and you’d like to know how to protect yourself, contact the ITRC to speak with an expert advisor. Also, download the free ID Theft Help App to access advisors, resources, a case log and much more. 

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


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Identity Theft Resource Center® Reports 30 Percent Decrease in Data Breaches so Far in 2020

Election Scams Begin to Surface with the General Election Less than One Month Away

Recent Insider Attacks Stress the Importance of Smart Business Practices

  • Data breaches are down 30 percent in Q3 of 2020 compared to Q3 of 2019 when you look at the Blackbaud ransomware attack as a single event. 
  • Data breaches are down 10 percent in Q3 of 2020 compared to Q3 of 2019 when you look at the Blackbaud ransomware attack as a series of data breaches.  
  • Regardless of how the Blackbaud ransomware attack is viewed, the number of individuals impacted by a data breach is down nearly two-thirds.  
  • Anyone who believes they are a victim of a data breach is encouraged to contact the Identity Theft Resource Center to learn more about the next step to take. Victims can call toll-free at 888.400.5530 or live-chat with an expert-advisor on the company website. 

2020 has seen many different data breach trends. In the first half of 2020, the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) reported a 33 percent decrease in data breaches and a 66 percent decrease in individuals impacted. The ITRC has compiled the Q3 2020 data breach statistics, and the number of compromises has dropped. However, there is one data breach that skews all the data. 

Two Ways to Look at the Numbers 

With the ongoing global pandemic and one particularly nasty ransomware attack against IT service provider, Blackbaud, reported in the third quarter, the Q3 numbers can be interpreted in two ways. 

Data Breaches Down 30 Percent Treating Blackbaud as a Single Event 

If we treat the Blackbaud attack as a single event, the number of data compromises reported so far in 2020 remains well below the 2019 trend line, with nearly a 30 percent decrease year-over-year. Looking at the rest of 2020, absent a significant data breach, 2020 could end with just over 1,000 data breaches. That would be the lowest number of breaches in five years, dating back to 2015. 

Data Breaches Down 10 Percent Treating Blackbaud as a Series of Breaches 

If the Blackbaud ransomware attack is treated as a series of data breaches, the year-over-year trend line changes significantly. However, the number of data breaches is still down in comparison to 2019. There have been 247 data breaches reported as a result of the Blackbaud ransomware attack. Once you add those to the overall number of data compromises, we go into Q4 with a 10 percent decrease in data breaches compared to this time last year.  

Individuals Impacted by Data Breaches Down Two-Thirds 

No matter how Blackbaud is categorized, one data point remains the same: the number of individuals who have been impacted in 2020 by an information breach. So far in 2020, roughly 292 million people have had their personal information compromised, nearly two-thirds fewer people than in 2019. The ITRC will have more information to share on our Q3 Data Breach Trends Report, which will be released later in October. We will also discuss the details on our sister podcast, The Fraudian Slip, in two weeks. 

Subscribe to the Weekly Breach Breakdown Podcast 

Every week, the ITRC looks at some of the top data compromises from the previous week, and other relevant cybersecurity news in our Weekly Breach Breakdown podcast. This week, we are looking at the Q3 data breach trends and the latest numbers.  

notifiedTM 

For more information about recent data breaches, or any of the data breaches discussed in Q3, 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 receive a breach notice due to the Blackbaud ransomware attack or any other data compromise and want to know what steps to take to protect yourself, contact one of the ITRC expert advisors by phone toll-free 888.400.5530, or by live-chat on the company website. Victims of a data breach can also 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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Shopify Data Exposure Affects Hundreds of Online Businesses

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50,000+ Fake Login Pages for Top Brands from Credential Theft

  • Credential theft is when fake webpages are created that look real for the sole purpose of stealing logins and passwords to access legitimate accounts.
  • The top targeted companies for phishing scams from credential theft include Paypal with 11,000 fake login pages, Microsoft with 9,500 fake pages, and Facebook 7,500 fake pages.
  • To prevent falling victim to a credential theft attack, consumers should not click on any links unless they know they are legitimate, double-check the email address of the sender, and change their password if they believe they used a fake login page.
  • For more information about the latest data breaches, consumers and businesses should visit the Identity Theft Resource Center’s (ITRC) new data breach tracking tool, notifiedTM.
  • Victims of identity theft can contact the ITRC toll-free at 888.400.5530, or by using the live-chat function on the website.

Credential stuffing is a term consumers often hear from cybersecurity experts. Credential stuffing is a type of cyber attack where stolen credentials, like usernames and passwords, are used to gain access to other accounts that share the same credentials. There is another term not heard as much, but just as prevalent: credential theft.

Subscribe to the Weekly Breach Breakdown Podcast

Every week the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) takes a look at the most interesting data compromises from the last week in our Weekly Breach Breakdown podcast. This week, we are talking about creating fake websites that look real for the sole purpose of stealing logins and passwords used to access legitimate accounts. We will look at how security researchers found tens of thousands of fake website login pages that are used to collect credentials from consumers.

Credential Theft

To commit a credential stuffing attack, a hacker must have credentials. Where do data thieves get the logins and passwords needed to fuel these attacks? The most obvious way is through data breaches everyone has seen over the years, where millions of credentials are stolen in a mass attack. However, there are less obvious ways, too. One of those less obvious ways is credential theft.

Earlier in 2020, security company IRONSCALES began to look for a specific kind of webpage; fake login pages that look like they could come from real companies. From January until June, IRONSCALES found more than 50,000 phony login pages from more than 200 recognizable brands with a high volume of web traffic.  

These fake login pages are used in phishing emails as a way of getting people to click on what they think is a legitimate login page. Most people cannot tell the login page is fake, leading unsuspecting victims to enter their real login and passwords into a fake webpage. That is all it takes for data thieves to have actual credentials from live accounts. They do not even have to buy or steal any data.

Top Targets for Phishing Scams

Anyone reading this blog might be wondering if they have ever clicked on an email link connected to an account. If they have, was it a real login page?

IRONSCALES reports that PayPal is the top target for phishing scams, with more than 11,000 fake login pages spoofing the brand. Microsoft is not far behind with 9,500 phony login pages. The list continues with Facebook with 7,500, eBay with 3,000 and Amazon with 1,500 known fake login pages. Other commonly spoofed brands include Adobe, Aetna, Apple, Alibaba, Delta Air Lines, JP Morgan Chase and Wells Fargo.

All of these companies have people who do nothing but seek and shut-down these and other kinds of fake webpages, websites, social media accounts and text messages that are used to collect personal information from their legitimate customers and prospects. However, research shows that credential theft is easy for a couple of reasons. The first is because malicious phishing emails that deliver fake login pages can easily bypass cybersecurity tools and spam filters just by making small changes in the email.

Inattentional Blindness

The second reason is because of inattentional blindness; when something looks so familiar or causes you to focus so intently that you don’t see the apparent errors hiding in plain sight. An example of inattentional blindness comes from a study where people were told to watch a video to count the number of people wearing white jerseys as they passed a ball. More than 50 percent of people taking the test missed the fact that one of the players was wearing a gorilla suit.

How Inattentional Blindness Applies to Identity Theft

Credential theft attacks translate into the inability to spot the tell-tale signs of a phishing scheme, even among trained cybersecurity and fraud professionals. What should people do if they encounter what they believe is a phishing attack?

1. Don’t click on any links unless you are sure they are legitimate. When in doubt, navigate directly to the website or webpage you are trying to reach instead of using a link.

2. If the link arrives in an email, double-check the address of the sender. An email address can be masked to make it look legitimate in the sender line. However, if you click on the sender’s name to see the actual address, you may find the email from mybank.com is actually from bob@scams-r-us. Get into the habit of checking email addresses.

3. If you believe you used a fake login page, change your passwords and alert the security team at the company whose login page has been spoofed as soon as possible. While changing your password, consider switching to a 12-character passphrase with upper and lower case letters. It will take an automated hacker tool 300 years to break that passphrase, as well as be easier to remember.

notifiedTM

For more information about the latest 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 by calling toll-free at 888.400.5530, or on the website via 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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