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  • A new Google Photo sharing scam is the latest attempt to steal your credentials to hack and access your accounts.
  • You receive a message claiming to be from Google Photo that says someone is sharing a photo album with you. You’re asked to log into your account, except the message isn’t real, and the criminals take off with your Google credentials.
  • If you receive a message you are not expecting or from someone you don’t know, don’t click on any link in the message.
  • If you want to learn more about the Google Photo sharing scam or if you are a victim, contact the Identity Theft Resource Center toll-free at 888.400.5530 or by live-chat. Just visit www.idtheftcenter.org to get started.

Scammers always try to find different ways to attack consumers. One new attempt is through a text or email that appears to come from Google Photo. The Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) recently received a suspicious message that appeared to be a legitimate attempt to share a Google Photo album. However, it was actually a phishing scam.

Like many phishing attacks, the Google Photo sharing scam is an attempt to steal your credentials. The tactic has become more common with cybercriminals shifting away from attacks seeking consumer information and towards attacks that target logins and passwords. 

Who is the Target?

Text message users; email users

What is the Scam?

You receive what appears to be a real attempt to share a Google Photo album. The message claims that someone has shared a photo album with you. However, there is no photo album. Once you click the “View Photo” link, you are prompted to another website to log into your Google account. Since the website captures the login information, you then provide the identity thieves with access to your credentials and account.

What They Want

It’s always easier to steal something when you have the key to a lock instead of having to break into where valuables are kept. Identity criminals want to access personal and work accounts because that’s easier and faster than trying to break into a system. The Google Photo sharing scam is a way for identity criminals to get the credentials needed to access and steal personal and company information. According to the FBI, email compromises cost U.S. businesses $1.8 billion, and phishing schemes cost individuals $54 million in 2020.

How to Avoid Being Scammed

  • Never click on a link in a suspicious or unexpected message. While the message might look legitimate, the links and attachments could still have malware. Instead, if the message comes from a “company,” reach out to the company directly to verify whether the message is real. If it comes from an unknown person, delete the message without clicking any links.
  • Check the URL link and be on the lookout for short links. Sometimes, there are signs in the link that give away it is a scam. For example, a link address might read “Goo.gle” instead of “Google.” You are more likely to see that when a link is shortened, a favorite tactic of cybercriminals. Another tactic is typing out a hyperlinked text to what looks like a legitimate website (like Google.com). However, it actually displays an unknown site when you hover over the link.
  • Use Multifactor Authentication (MFA) on important accounts. Even trained cybersecurity professionals fall for sophisticated phishing attempts that look real. That’s why it’s important to use MFA on any account that offers the feature. Use an authenticator app when possible – Microsoft and Google offer them for free – because they are more secure than just having a code texted to your mobile device. With MFA in place, having your login and password won’t help a criminal access your protected accounts.
  • Never reuse or share passwords. Criminals steal logins and passwords because they know most people use the same password on multiple accounts. Too many people also use the same passwords at home and work. Make sure each account has a unique password that is at least 12 characters long.

If you believe you are a victim of a Google Photo sharing scam or would like to learn more, contact the ITRC toll-free. You can call (888.400.5530) or use the live-chat function on the company website. Just go to www.idtheftcenter.org to get started.   

  • As more people get the coronavirus vaccine, the level of COVID vaccine fraud could rise, particularly around vaccine passport and scheduling apps and vaccination cards.
  • Right now, there are no programs in the U.S. that use or require a vaccine passport app. If anyone receives a message about one, it is a scam trying to steal people’s credentials or get them to pay for a fake app or service.
  • There are apps to schedule a vaccine. However, an app that asks for money or personal health information (PHI) should raise a red flag.
  • Many people are posting pictures online of their vaccination cards once they’ve gotten the COVID shot. The Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) does not recommend people post these photos unless they blur out their personal information to reduce identity risks.
  • If anyone wants to learn more about COVID vaccine fraud concerns or believes they have been the victim of a COVID vaccine scam, they can contact the ITRC toll-free by phone (888.400.5530) or live-chat. Just go to www.idtheftcenter.org to get started.

The number of Americans receiving the COVID vaccine is on the rise. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), well over 100 million vaccines have been administered, and more than 12 percent of Americans are fully vaccinated. States across the U.S. are moving beyond limited groups to vaccinate the general public, leading to concerns over COVID vaccine fraud. There are several different ways identity criminals could attack.

Vaccine Passport & Scheduling Apps

There are no current programs in the U.S. that use or require a vaccine passport. While the World Health Organization (WHO) says the race is on to develop a vaccine passport, any phone calls or messages to download a COVID vaccine passport app is a scam. However, there are apps for vaccine scheduling, like the CDC’s Vaccine Schedules app and other healthcare apps. With that said, any app that asks for money or personal health information (PHI) could be suspect. Fake apps often attempt to either steal someone’s credentials, get them to pay for the fraudulent app, or use a fraudulent vaccine scheduling service.

Vaccination Cards

Another COVID vaccine fraud concern involves COVID vaccine cards. By now, most people have probably seen at least one of their friends, family members or co-workers post a picture online of their COVID vaccination card. COVID vaccine cards have personal information (name, birth date and vaccination location) on them that people need to safeguard. Posting vaccine cards could help scammers create and sell phony vaccination cards or even hack accounts. The Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) recommends people remove or block sensitive information before they post their cards online.

According to a Better Business Bureau (BBB) alert, there have been no reports of fake vaccination cards sold in the U.S. However, in Great Britain, scammers have already been caught selling phony vaccination cards on eBay and TikTok.

How to Avoid a COVID Vaccine Scam

COVID vaccine scams based around fake websites and vaccines have been around since nearly the beginning of the global pandemic. There is no reason to believe the trend will decline as more COVID vaccines are administered. Consumers should be aware of the COVID vaccine fraud attempts and take the following steps to protect themselves:

  • Do not download any apps that claim to be a vaccine passport.
  • Only schedule vaccination appointments through official websites, a local health authority, or your medical provider. Services requiring payment to schedule an appointment are a sign of fraud.
  • Do not post pictures of your vaccination card online unless the personal information is blocked or removed.
  • Only get vaccinated from a licensed medical provider.
  • Do not respond to any calls, emails or text messages about COVID vaccines that ask for your personal information. Also, don’t click on any links, attachments or files unless you initiated the contact. If in doubt, reach out to the entity directly to verify the validity of a message.

Contact the ITRC

For more information on COVID vaccine fraud concerns, or if someone believes they are the victim of a COVID vaccine scam, contact the ITRC toll-free by phone (888.400.5530) or live-chat. Visit our website for the latest news on COVID scams and other identity-related issues. All people have to do is go to www.idtheftcenter.org to get started.

  • 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. 

Another week has gone by, and there are new data compromises for the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) to educate businesses and consumers on. Since 2005, the ITRC has tracked publicly-notified U.S. data breaches and has tracked over 10,000 breaches since then; more recently, using 25 different information fields and 63 different identity attributes that are updated daily. On last week’s Weekly Breach Breakdown, we talked about the market price for consumer data in the dark corners of the internet where identities are bought and sold. This week, we are looking at the average cost of a data breach exposed to the public. We will also talk about the latest data breaches that reflect the trends in the new research. 

The 15th IBM Report on the average cost of a data breach was recently released, conducted by the Ponemon Institute. Reflecting some of the same trends the ITRC has reported, the IBM study shows that the global average cost of a data breach has dropped to $3.8 million – with the average being defined as a breach of 100,000 records or less. That is a drop of nearly a half-million dollars.

However, when you focus on the U.S. alone, the average cost of a data breach has gone up almost the same amount to an average of roughly $8.6 million. That continues the long-term trend of costs steadily increasing beyond the rate of inflation since 2005.

In regards to the calculation of the cost, costs include the following:

  • The actions required to detect and respond to a data breach
  • The costs of notifying the people whose information was stolen
  • Lost revenue and the costs of marketing and sales activities required to regain consumer trust lost as a result of the data breach
  • Legal fees, fines and settlement costs
  • Increased customer care support

Lost revenue is the single largest component at 40 percent of all breach-related costs. With all of that said, what is not included are the expenses associated with fixing the problem that caused the breach in the first place, and the changes needed to ensure it does not happen again. While it stands to reason that the bigger the breach, the bigger the costs, they are exceptionally bigger – 100 times bigger – if the number of records compromised is over one million records. If a data breach of 100,000 U.S. records costs $6.8 million, a one million record event could cost close to $900 million.

According to the IBM report, the number one cause for data breaches in 2020 at 19 percent is lost and stolen credentials – logins and passwords – which is also tied with misconfigured cloud environments. In other words, someone forgot to add the password to the cloud account, leaving information exposed on the web for anyone to see. Unpatched software accounts were in third place at a little over 15 percent, while malicious employees accounted for only seven percent of breaches reviewed by the Ponemon Institute. It is also worth noting that some security and human resource experts believe the number of attacks will only go up if pandemic-related layoffs increase.

Other key findings from the 2020 IBM Report regarding the average cost of a data breach include: 

  • 53 percent of the attacks in the 2020 report was financially motivated
  • The most expensive attacks occurred in the healthcare sector 
  • The average length of time between when a malicious attack starts and ends is 315 days – 10 and half months
  • Threat actors want consumer information – especially logins and passwords – more than any other data (80 percent of the time.) However, that is not the only data they want. Nearly a third of breaches in the IBM study were thefts of company intellectual property. 

Looking back at the top breaches this past week, Nintendo, the company that gave us Donkey Kong Mario Brothers, was the victim of a cyberattack where thieves dumped a large amount of data onto the web. While there was no personal information exposed, screenshots and prototypes of games were posted online. The Nintendo data breach reflects the IMB report’s findings that company intellectual property is also a target for cybercriminals. Intellectual property theft can have a significant impact on a company’s business performance.

A recent Garmin ransomware attack shut down customer access to multiple products and services, as well as manufacturing. It took Garmin, which makes GPS devices and fitness trackers, nearly a week to publicly acknowledge the attack, and services are still in the process of being restored. According to Garmin, no consumer information was compromised, and the ransomware involved is not known to steal data. Rather, the ransomware used in the Garmin ransomware attack is known just to hold data hostage.

Finally, there’s Drizly, the popular service for ordering adult beverages for delivery. The company was hacked, and information from an estimated 2.5 million accounts was placed into the dark web’s identity marketplaces. According to Drizly, no payment information or other sensitive customer data was breached. However, the cybercriminals say otherwise and are selling the stolen data for $14 per account. That makes all of the information worth at least $35 million.

For more information about the latest data breaches, people can subscribe to the ITRC’s data breach newsletter. Also, 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 in August.

If someone believes they are the victim of identity theft or believes 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 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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