Involved in a Data Breach? What Every Consumer Needs to Know About Credit Monitoring Services

Data breaches are happening with alarming regularity. From major retailers to government agencies, no business is immune from the scourge of data appropriation and identity theft.

 

If you were caught up in one of those data breaches, you should have received a notification from the company involved and a list of steps you can take to protect your identity and your finances. In many cases data breach victims are also offered some kind of credit monitoring service. If you have been offered such a service, here are some things you need to know.

 

Check the Privacy Policy Carefully

A good credit monitoring service will take your privacy very seriously, and their privacy policy will clearly state that they will not sell or otherwise profit from your personal information. Always review the privacy policy carefully when choosing a credit monitoring service, and avoid doing business with any company that does not take concrete steps to safeguard your privacy.

 

Keep in mind that the credit monitoring service will probably need to share certain data with third parties to spot early warning signs of fraud. That is nothing to worry about, and it should be clearly spelled out in the company’s terms of service.

 

Free Monitoring May Not Stay That Way

If you were involved in a data breach, the company whose data was compromised may offer you a year of free credit monitoring. Target did this when their customer information was hacked, and many other retailers and businesses have done the same.

 

When you sign up for that year of free credit monitoring, be sure to ask the company what happens when your time is up. You may have the option of continuing, for a fee, or cancelling the service after the free monitoring period is over. If the service is set to automatically renew at your expense, be sure to set a reminder so you can reevaluate your need for credit monitoring and make the right decision.

 

No Service is Perfect

Credit monitoring companies do their best to identify fraudulent activity and spot troubling patterns, but even the best service cannot find everything. Having a credit monitoring service in your corner is great, but it does not mean you can ignore your own financial life.

Remove your Information from Data Broker Sites

It is still important to review your credit card statements and bank account information on a regular basis and look for signs of fraud on your own. Working with the credit monitoring service is the best way to safeguard your personal information and avoid issues stemming from a security breach.

Literally anyone can search for a person on the Internet using such key words as:

  • find someone
  • locate a person
  • people locate
  • license plate records
  • bank account locate
  • employment locate
  • phone record search
  • social security number trace
  • property record information
  • and, more…………..

Searching on these key words will yield the URLs of hundreds of internet-based data broker companies that provide various levels of consumer information on line.  Some even provide a good deal of information at no charge.  Most provide a teaser amount of information and then charge a fee for the more interesting (and potentially damaging) data.  Experiment a little and you’ll quickly discover that you don’t need to hire a private investigator to obtain almost any level of personal information about virtually anyone.  And, of course, if you can find detailed sensitive information about someone else, than anyone can find your information as well.

The simple (and sad) fact of the matter is that information brokers, analytical companies and others are compiling vast amounts of your personal information – addresses, family members, relatives, interests, preferences, personal phone numbers and email addresses, financial history and, much more – all without your knowledge or consent.  This information is then often combined with public records data to create comprehensive individual profiles which are then sold to virtually anyone willing to pay a small fee.

Internet-based information brokerages and data providers are surfacing all over the country.  Why?  Because it’s big business – a multi-billion dollar business that includes the three national credit bureaus, many marketing companies and entities like Been Verified, Spokeo, Private Eye and dozens of others.   To be fair, many of these companies use your personal information for relatively benign marketing purposes.   However, fifty or so of the newer market entries were formed for the exclusive purpose of selling your detailed sensitive information to anyone on the Internet without regard for your privacy.  Unfortunately, these businesses are neither licensed nor regulated.  As an example, a convicted felon in California is operating one of the largest information brokerage businesses in the country – because he can.

The important take away from today is that virtually anyone can find just about everything they might want to know about you on the internet for any purpose – targeting, stalking, bullying, revenge, embarrassment, identity theft and much more.

Data breaches are not going away. If anything the problem is getting worse. From solo criminals to organized gangs, the data thieves are everywhere, operating throughout the world and breaking into systems large and small. The best way to deal with this growing problem is to protect yourself. Whether you check your own credit report and initiate a credit freeze or hire a credit monitoring service, the tips listed above can help you protect yourself.

Staying Safe on a Dangerous Internet

by Peter Zimmerman

The Internet has become a major part of our world. The amount of information and content on the Internet over the past several years has multiplied tremendously. Much of our lives revolve around websites, social media sites, and experiences we have online. In turn, we communicate those experiences with our friends and family. The fact is much of the Internet is fun, entertaining, useful, and rewarding. The Internet has increased our knowledge and opened our eyes to people, places, and information we would have never experienced in a pre-Internet world.

As fun and exciting as the Internet is, there is a very dark side to it as well. It is a side that threatens you and your family. The dark side of the Internet is filled with people that may stalk you and your family to cause harm.  Their ultimate goal is to take what you have.  Protecting yourself and your family has to be a top priority, if it isn’t you may end up spending a lot of time and money trying to repair the damage that may be done.

Here’s a list of 4 serious dangers that exist in today’s Internet world:

1. Identity theft. By far the greatest danger out there, identity theft comes in many different forms, and almost always results in great harm or damage to your reputation, your credit score, and perhaps your bank account.

2. Sexual Predators. These are criminals that prey on naïve or young victims. Their motives are sexual harassment and/or theft. Violence is also a concern with these types of crimes. There are no limitations to the kind of people being targeted, but they are usually female and young.

3. Extortion. They are schemes that criminals use to steal personal information and then try to use it against you with a common goal, to get your money. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) report an increase in the use of personal information published in a malicious way to scam victims out of money. They post the stolen information and then demand money to have it removed. These are commonly related to dating websites but exist elsewhere as well.

4. Email Scams. Beware of unsolicited emails sent asking for personal information or making promises of cash rewards that are not true and used only as bait. IC3 publishes regular press releases concerning these attempts, which change and evolve from time to time. Also, be aware of emails with virus-ridden attachments used for phishing purposes.

With these very real dangers in mind, what can be done to protect us? First, don’t panic! Put together a game plan to protect you and your family. Many of the following suggestions you may already know about and are using, others may be new to you. The most important rule of thumb is to be fanatical about keeping your family’s personal information private. Once the information escapes on the Internet it is very difficult, if not impossible to claw back.

Instill the same sense of urgency in your family. It is essential they share your sense of security and drive to keep the family safe. One weak link can expose the entire family to danger. Younger children and teenagers frequently feel invisible, and that can allow them to act recklessly on the Internet. Also, today’s quest among the young (and sometimes adults as well) is one of fame. “How many followers can I attract? What video can I produce that will give me instant fame and popularity among my peers?” We have all been there, and our world may not have presented the same kind of constant danger as today’s, but that requires us to be alert constantly as we address the present dangers.

The list of dangers above presented the facts about the dangers of today’s Internet. The following list presents the key elements of staying safe from these dangers:

1. Never post any personally identifiable information to the Internet for public viewing. For instance, never post your name, address, and/or telephone for public viewing on any public website, social media sites included. Thieves will grab that information and connect it to other information that may have stolen from you. If you must post this information to private, secure websites, do it only sparingly with those you trust.

2. The following advice may sound paranoid, but it is another step to keep your family safe.  Unless required, consider sharing your picture only with family and friends. Your picture can be used against you as part of Internet scams and extortion.  True or false information can be posted alongside your photo and personal information with a later demand for money. Many of these scam websites exist in countries outside the realm of U.S. law enforcement.

3. Install virus protection software on your computer, regardless of the type of computer or operating system you are using. The software should examine websites, cookies, incoming emails, tracking devices, etc. Skimping in the area of software protection is a big mistake.

4. If you have children, install software that controls the websites they can visit and will warn you of any potential threats to your children via a log or instant alerts. The software packages examined for this article had that ability to block dangerous behavior and immediately text a parent when suspicious activity is occurring. Those are priceless features and highly recommended.

5. Even more important than #4 is talking to your children. Explain to them the dangers presented by the Internet and then suggest websites that you know are safe and that they may find interesting or fun. Working with them, watching them, and communicating will educate them on how to be safe online. Consider locating your children’s computers in the family room so there are no secrets or dangers you are not aware of.

6. Change your passwords on bank sites, investment sites, and other accounts regularly. Never use common words, birthdays, or other personally identifiable information as passwords. Passwords used by the whole family need to be random with no specific meaning.

7. Scan your computer hard drives regularly for viruses or Trojans (files infected with software that steals information) that may have slipped by your protection. You can never be too safe from Internet criminals. Running this software just adds to the layers of protections.  Never open email attachments from someone you are unfamiliar with.

8. Use the Internet as reference and communication material, when at all possible don’t store information on a website that you wouldn’t want the most vicious of criminals to see. What is harmless to one person may be a gold mine to a savvy criminal.

Hopefully this review of Internet crime, and the ways you can prevent becoming a victim of that crime has been helpful. It’s necessary from time to time to sit back and think about yours and your family’s security. Taking a few moments to install preventative measures and software can help avoid hours, days, and even weeks of doing damage control from attempted criminal activity. You have friends in cyberspace, but there are also dangerous predators and criminals. Put up the defenses that will protect you and your family for years to come. You’ll be glad you did.

Guide to Avoid Cyber Bullying

When someone knocks your books out of your arms in the hall or picks a fight in the school’s playground, you know you’re being bullied. Cyber bullying may not be as easy to spot because the perpetrators are often anonymous and instead of beating your body up, the attackers focus on humiliating and unnerving you. These types of attacks may not leave any physical scars, but they can be far more harmful leading some children to commit suicide. In the same way you would fight a bully who picks a fight, you have to learn to protect yourself in the new school playground: cyberspace.

Take a Look Around

Cyberspace can be a virtual wonderland that comes with new experiences and online friends. Before you go into any virtual area, you need to understand what areas are safe and which carry more risks. Unlike the real life playground where only your school friends are present, cyberspace is open to anyone, and that’s where the dangers come in.  Here are a few places that you might want to explore, and some of the dangers associated with them.

  • Facebook and Twitter – These social networking sites can provide instant popularity by allowing anyone online to friend or follow you. That also means that you will need to be extra careful about the types of information you reveal in your status updates and pictures. While Facebook has ways to limit your profile information to only friends, you also may not know who are the people behind the Facebook pictures and end up friending someone with evil intentions.
  • Online Game Sites – You go online to have fun and play a few games. Don’t expect that because it’s a fun place to be that you are safe there from cyber bullying.  Online game sites can also make it easy for a person to disguise who they really are by picking an avatar like a small child instead of whom they are in real life. You might think you are talking to one type of person and you are really talking to a different one altogether, maybe someone from your school who has learned you play games online and wants to gain your trust so they can bully you more effectively. Be very careful friending people online, even when the site is just for fun and games.
  • Bulletin Boards – Whether it’s a school online bulletin board or one that is for a special hobby, they can also be places where bullies go to spread rumors and gossip online. School bulletin boards can have all your friends neatly in one place, making them also easier to target, too.
  • Email Accounts – You may be in the school library accessing some online email and end up giving away your password innocently to someone. Once a bully has your email account password, they can impersonate you online and send messages from your account to your friends saying nasty things or telling embarrassing lies about you.
  • YouTube – The fact that cell phones now come with video cameras that can be used to capture photos where you are being bullied to post online and increase your sense of humiliation is a sad truth. Also, you have to be very careful about what pictures and videos you allow your friends to take or you might suddenly find it posted for the world on YouTube, without your permission.

How to Control Your Space

With so many electronic opportunities to steal your private information and use it against you, it becomes important to learn how to control your online space to reduce the possibility of it being used to cyber bully you. Before you decide to post anything in your status feed, upload a photo, or chat with someone online, ask yourself this question:

“Would I want everyone to see this piece of information I am about to share?”

If the answer is no, then you probably don’t want to share that information online, either. The best way to make sure that there is no way to reveal anything that can be used to bully you is to simply not reveal it in the first place. However, there are times when people will try to hack into your accounts to harass you and use your own accounts against you. What can you do to control your space then?

  • Passwords – Passwords should not be easy to guess. They should follow rules for good passwords, if possible. It will depend on the site you are on, but a decent password should not be less than six characters, include some upper and lowercase letters, and a special character. Not all sites allow you to do this, but those that do can help you create a password that is difficult to hack. Do not forget to change your password often. Do not use the same password for all your sites as hacking into one will reveal all the others. Use different passwords for each site. Lock your phone so that information stored on it can’t be accessed.
  • Permissions – Facebook will allow you to customize your profile so that you can limit what the public sees on your Facebook profile. However, you privacy settings are often changed within Facebook making some items visible to the public that you thought were hidden. So, although you can change privacy settings, you should just avoid posting anything that might be used to cause trouble for you later.
  • Blocking – You can unfriend and block someone on Facebook so that they never have access to your profile. This will work if you know who is using your information to bully you online. However, profiles can be faked, so it can be had to figure out who is behind the profile that is getting information to post elsewhere. One way to avoid this is to friend only people you know in real life.

Real Life Dangers

A status update as innocent as suggesting that you are at the mall looking at shoes, instead of at home, can be an invitation for someone to use that time to toilet paper your house knowing that you are away. The fact is that being friendly online comes with risks – more than you might imagine. Being online can make it almost impossible to escape others who want to reach out at any time to harass you from the safety of their computer screen or smartphone.  If you don’t have many friends to begin with, the idea that you could be popular online may be tempting, but it can lead to enormous problems if people are faking their interest in your life. A virtual friendship is not a real friendship, and shouldn’t be treated as one. Avoid the temptation to give out real personal life details and/or share secrets online. Do not post embarrassing pictures that others can share widely. Always assume that the person on the other end of the site could be someone they say they are not.

What to do?

Did you know that information brokers, analytical companies and others are routinely compiling vast amounts of your personal information (names, addresses, phone numbers, voting, divorce and legal records, political views, financial history and lots more) for the exclusive purpose of selling your information on the Internet to virtually anyone without your knowledge or permission? Imagine! In a just few clicks a complete stranger can find everything they want to know about you! This is a serious issue with many having been victimized already. So, what can we do about this at both individual and organizational levels? The only practical solution is to remove your personal information from these sites. But, that task is easier said than done.

There’s lots of good advice out there, such as:

  • Don’t use your actual name on the Internet;
  • Never give out personal information like phone numbers or physical addresses;
  • Don’t send sensitive information from a personal computer;
  • Remove personal information from social media accounts;
  • Clear cookies and browser cache on a regular basis; and
  • Countless suggestions regarding safe email usage, etc.

At the end of the day, while all of this is useful and well intended, the only practical solution is to remove your personal information from these sites. But, that task is easier said than done.

The unfortunate reality is that removing personal information from these sites is intentionally convoluted and difficult. While it is technically possible, most people do not have the time or patience to execute each of the following steps:

Step 1 – Identify all of the more than 200 sites that compile, maintain and sell personal information, and then zero in on the 50 that can really hurt you.

Step 2 – Dig through each of the sites to locate the particular set of instructions for opting out of that site.

Step 3 – Follow each of the required processes, prepare and submit the necessary form or forms, and provide the additional information necessary (including a photo ID in some cases) to complete the opt out request.

Step 4 – After the full set of opt out instructions have been submitted, revisit each of the sites to verify they have complied with the opt out request.

Step 5 – More than a step, this is an on-going process. Even after many of these sites have complied with the initial removal instructions, they will repopulate personal information over time. So, periodically (at least every 30 days), it is necessary to return to Step 1 and repeat the entire process.

Protecting your personal information in an on-line world is a never ending and time consuming, but very necessary process for individual and family safety – especially today. For more information, please visit https://www.manageurid.com

Keeping Your Personal Information Private – Part 5

In Part 4, we talked about Defending against cyber stalking.  At that time, and in most of the other parts of the series, we’ve talked about ways you can minimize the amount and type of your personal information that is available to be acquired by information brokers and others.  The techniques we’ve shared and others we could talk about are certainly useful in reducing your exposure.  At the end of the day, however, the most effective means of protecting your personal information and, by extension, your privacy and physical and financial security, is by removing your sensitive data from unauthorized sites and sites that sell your personal information on the internet.  To that end today’s session is entitled, How to manage the removal of your personal information from unauthorized sites and sites that sell your personal information.  

As we mentioned in Part 1, there are literally dozens of information brokers selling personal information on the internet today.  Before you begin the step by step approach outlined below to removing your information from these sites, if you’d like to get some idea of how much of your information is available for sale on the internet, visit ManageURiD and click on the Free Search tab for a Free Risk Assessment (takes about a minute).  If you find that your information is out there, as you almost certainly will, you can manage its removal by carefully taking the following steps:

Step 1 – Identify all of the sites that are maintaining and selling your personal information.  Use the key words referenced in Part 1 in an effort to identify the URLs you will need.  Do not relax your efforts with this step until you have identified around 50 sites.  The total number of sites varies from time to time as information brokers spin off satellite sites in an effort to differentiate themselves and garner a greater share of the market.

Step 2 – Dig through each of the sites to locate the particular set of instructions for opting out of that site.  Each site is different in terms of how readily you will be able to locate the opt out instruction sequence and in how complicated they have made the opt out process.  Some sites require only a single step while others will insist on a multiple step process.

Step 3 – Complete each of the required processes, submit the necessary form or forms, and provide the additional information they require to respond to your opt out request – which can include a photo ID.

Step 4 – After you have issued the full set of opt out instructions, revisit each of the sites to confirm they have complied with your request.  Some sites will comply immediately.  Others may take seven to ten days to react; and, still others can take as long as 30 days or more.  Some will even ignore your first request.  So, it is vital that you follow up to assure they have complied, and, in some cases, reissue your removal request until they do comply.

Step 5 – More than a step, this is an on-going process.  Even after many of these sites have complied with initial your removal instructions, they will repopulate your information over time.  Our digital world has made that a virtual inevitability.  So, periodically (at least every 30-45days), you should return to Step 1 and repeat the above outlined process.

Unfortunately, protecting your personal information in an on-line world is a never ending and time consuming, but very necessary process for individual and family safety – especially today.

Keeping Your Personal Information Private – Part 4

In Part 3, we reviewed Protecting your email information with security tools.  Today, our subject is an increasingly troubling and even dangerous phenomenon commonly referred to as cyber talking and some thoughts on Defending against cyber stalking.  

Online stalking or cyber stalking is unfortunately not new.  There are 15-20 year old websites relating to the topic that continue to receive inquiries.  With the advent of Web 2.0 technologies, however, online stalking has become more common and more dangerous.  Growing numbers of people are reporting being pursued by stalkers via cell phones, internet services, GPS systems, wireless video cameras, and other technologies.

Generally speaking there are two types of online stalkers: one time offenders who hold a grudge or otherwise have developed an obsession, and serial stalkers who are always on the lookout for new victims. Although there are many variations on the theme, typically cyber stalkers will become more demanding over time and may eventually try to force you into doing what they want by threatening to or actually publishing defamatory, malicious information or private, personal data that could hurt you, your relationships, and/or your career.

The best way to defend yourself against cyber stalking is to make it hard for stalkers to find you and your private information in the first place.

  • When on the internet, never use your actual name – use a name or sign that is as unrelated to you as you can invent.
  • Never give out personal details like phone numbers or physical addresses.
  • Do not send any confidential information via a personal computer.  If absolutely necessary, use a library computer which a stalker is less likely to be able to track.
  • Remove any personal information from social media sites.

Perhaps most importantly, it is critically important to effectively manage the information broker community.  People finder data bases that contain vast amounts of sensitive personal information and readily sell that information on the internet make it very easy for stalkers to not only find and harass you, but equally easy to extend their activities to family members, relatives and associates.  Hence it is a fundamental imperative that you manage your personal information and direct its removal from those data bases that might publish or sell your information.   In fact, that’s the focus of our next session.

In Part 5 we’ll talk about How to manage the removal of your personal information from unauthorized sites and sites that sell your personal information.    

Protecting your personal information in an on-line world is a never ending and time consuming, but very necessary process for individual and family safety – especially today.

Keeping Your Personal Information Private – Part 3

In Part 2, we discussed Dealing with tracking software Today, we’ll talk about Protecting your email information with security tools because email is yet another one of the ways your information is being acquired.  

We’re going to look at this issue in two dimensions today.  To begin with, when emailing to unknown parties: posting to newsgroups, mailing lists, chat rooms and other public spaces on the Net; or publishing a Web page that mentions your email address, it is best to do this from a separate pseudonymous or simply alternate address that can be easily acquired at no charge from email service providers such as Yahoo Mail or Hotmail.  And, do not use any part of your name in the “throw away” email address.  Addresses that are posted (even as part of message headers) in public spaces can be easily discovered by spammers (online junk mailers) and added to their list of targets.  If this address is spammed enough to become annoying, you can simply delete it, and create a new one.  Reserve your main or preferred email address for use with small, members-only lists and with known, trusted individuals.

On a separate note, most people think of the content of their email messages when they hear or read about email traffic being monitored or intercepted.  Few, however, realize that the metadata content – the record of who you are communicating with and how often – is equally as important to some.  Of course, we’ve recently learned that government agencies have been logging metadata on email communications for quite some time – and, in recent years, that data has included information on American citizens.  In addition, the government has been acquiring contact lists from around the world to the tune of some 250 million people a year.

Interestingly, as a result of the spying tactics that are all too possible in the digital age, several small companies emerged that provided encrypted email services as a possible defense, but have since shut down when asked to provide their encryption keys.  Additionally, while they were able to encrypt email message content, the use of email protocols such as SMTP, POP3 and IMAP left the metadata exposed.  In the end, they felt the risks to their client base were too great – and may have yielded a false sense of security.  New services are emerging which will encrypt both content and the metadata, but they will require the sender and the receiver to be using the same service, and will not be particularly useful until (and if) they become ubiquitous.

While typical email protocols do not permit protecting metadata content, there are steps you can take to secure the content of messages you send.  First, if you are using webmail, be sure that you are using the common internet security protocols, SSL and TLS.  You’ll know that you are if the browser’s address starts with https – and you should see a small padlock.  On the other hand, if you are using a desktop email client, make sure you are connected via SSL/TLS over IMAP or POP3. If you are not, your email messages are being sent in clear text that can be easily read by others.  Finally, the big three email services Gmail, Yahoo and Outlook, offer a security feature known as two-factor authentication.  Be sure to activate that feature in your system.

In Part 4, we’ll talk about Defending against cyber stalking.  

Protecting your personal information in an on-line world is a never ending and time consuming, but very necessary process for individual and family safety – especially today.

Keeping Your Personal Information Private – Part 2

In Part 1 of this series we talked about Who is selling your information and whyOur subject for today is Dealing with tracking software – one of the ways your personal information is being acquired.

The internet has become an extraordinarily useful tool for finding information of all sorts.  However, the internet browser you use is bidirectional.  That is, you can readily learn about what you are interested in, but others are also learning about you while you are online.

Internet users are often surprised (even pleasantly so at times) when a site “remembers” the last time a user visited the site and even some of his or her preferences.  This is accomplished by websites, or ads running on websites, installing cookies, beacons, and other tracking files on an Internet user’s computer, tablet or smart phone.

Cookies generally perform harmless tasks such as allowing websites to remember user names and passwords for future logins.  Some cookies, though, track the websites you visit, and beacons can actually track what you are doing on a website.  This can consist of tracking and recording buttons that are clicked, words that are typed, voice searches that are made, etc.

Some tracking files may even record and locate sensitive information such as income, location, medical conditions, etc.

At one time The Wall Street Journal reported that approximately two-thirds of the tracking files employed by the top 50 most visited websites were dispatched by tracking companies that compile Internet users’ personal information into consumer profiles.   These profiles are then sold to Internet companies to assist them in developing more personalized web services and advertisements in the best case, and to exploit consumers in the worst.

The Internet may have opened the world to everyone, but it has also literally exposed everyone to the world in ways they never anticipated.

To provide some level of defense against this means of acquiring your information, it would be wise for you to regularly clear your cookies and your browser cache.  This process will provide some measure of protection for now, but new methods of tracking online usage and activity may be more difficult to defeat.  For example, some companies may begin looking for distinctive computer settings such as installed fonts and time zone details in order to zero in on a user’s identity.  It has also been reported that Google and Microsoft are working on new forms of cookie-less identification.  So, in the future, it may be wiser to deal with the control and protection of your personal information in an entirely different way.  More on that in a future post.

In Part 3, we’ll talk about Protecting your email information with security tools.  

Protecting your personal information in an on-line world is a never ending and time consuming, but very necessary process for individual and family safety – especially today

Keeping Your Personal Information Private

This is Part 1 of a five part series on the importance of Keeping Your Personal Information Private.

The ready availability and sale of your personal information on the Internet invades your privacy and represents a threat to your physical and financial security.  The objective of this series is to provide you with some tips and proven approaches for controlling the amount and type of your personal information that is being compiled and sold on the Internet without your knowledge or consent.

Today we’ll start with a look at Who is selling your personal information and why. 

Literally anyone can search for a person on the Internet using such key words as:

  • find someone
  • locate a person
  • people locate
  • license plate records
  • bank account locate
  • employment locate
  • phone record search
  • social security number trace
  • property record information
  • and, more…………..

Searching on these key words will yield the URLs of hundreds of internet-based data broker companies that provide various levels of consumer information on line.  Some even provide a good deal of information at no charge.  Most provide a teaser amount of information and then charge a fee for the more interesting (and potentially damaging) data.  Experiment a little and you’ll quickly discover that you don’t need to hire a private investigator to obtain almost any level of personal information about virtually anyone.  And, of course, if you can find detailed sensitive information about someone else, than anyone can find your information as well.

The simple (and sad) fact of the matter is that information brokers, analytical companies and others are compiling vast amounts of your personal information – addresses, family members, relatives, interests, preferences, personal phone numbers and email addresses, financial history and, much more – all without your knowledge or consent.  This information is then often combined with public records data to create comprehensive individual profiles which are then sold to virtually anyone willing to pay a small fee.

Internet-based information brokerages and data providers are surfacing all over the country.  Why?  Because it’s big business – a multi-billion dollar business that includes the three national credit bureaus, many marketing companies and entities like Been Verified, Spokeo, Private Eye and dozens of others.   To be fair, many of these companies use your personal information for relatively benign marketing purposes.   However, fifty or so of the newer market entries were formed for the exclusive purpose of selling your detailed sensitive information to anyone on the Internet without regard for your privacy.  Unfortunately, these businesses are neither licensed nor regulated.  As an example, a convicted felon in California is operating one of the largest information brokerage businesses in the country – because he can.

The important take away from today is that virtually anyone can find just about everything they might want to know about you on the internet for any purpose – targeting, stalking, bullying, revenge, embarrassment, identity theft and much more.

In the next segment, we’ll begin to provide you with important steps you can take to regain control of your private information and, in so doing, significantly enhance your physical and financial security.

Part 2 next:  Dealing with tracking software.

Protecting your personal information in an on-line world is a never ending and time consuming, but very necessary process for individual and family safety – especially today.

DOXXING – The New Threat (Part 1)

THE INTERNET POSTING OF PERSONAL INFORMATION

This is Part 1 of a two part series on the subject of “Doxxing”.  In this first part we will define Doxxing, discuss how it is being used, and review the risks and threats Doxxing represents.  In Part 2 we will talk about what can be done to protect yourself from Doxxing.

DOXXING DEFINED

Doxxing is loosely defined as an Internet based practice of researching and broadcasting personally identifiable information (such as names, addresses, phone numbers, spouse, children, relatives, financial history, and much more) about an individual.  The practice of doxxing is not new.  It actually dates back to the 1990s and was often used for constructive purposes such as helping law enforcement locate suspects and /or dangerous criminals, in business analysis, and the legitimate vetting of individuals.  Doxxing, however, strays into a very dark area when it is used for other purposes.

DOXXING AS USED BY ONLINE VIGILANTES

There are countless modern examples of doxxing that millions of Americans read about every day, often without realizing that doxxing is at the heart of what they are reading.  In the last two years, the Social Security number of First Lady Michelle Obama, Beyonce’s home address, Aston Kutcher’s personal phone number, and the credit report of Los Angeles PD chief Charlie Beck were all posted online following acts of doxxing.  While these events were troubling enough to the individuals involved, the more recent use of doxxing has taken an even darker turn.

Following recent events in Fersuson, the group called Anonymous acquired the sensitive personal information of Colonel Ronald Replogle, posted it on the Internet, and then Tweeted the location of this information to thousands of people.

Literally anyone can follow the provided link to acquire a home address, phone number, email address and much more.  These kinds of acts essentially put the individual involved and his/her family at immediate risk.

Erica Garner, one of the daughters of Eric Garner who was killed in a chokehold event by a New York City police officer, tweeted out the address of one of the officers present at the time (Justin D’Amico).  Her Tweet linked to a web page with addresses for D’Amico and for “five” possible relatives.  Erica Garner has more than 5,000 Twitter followers and her post was retweeted about 500 times.

Following the fatal shooting of a homeless man on Skid Row in Los Angeles in early March, LAPD confirmed that at least two police officers were the victims of doxxing.  An unknown individual or group posted the officers’ names, addresses, and details about their kids’ schools on the Internet.

THE RISKS AND THREATS OF DOXXING

Doxxing is a new kind of threat and one that can manifest itself in many dimensions and extend the risk beyond the individual involved to include family members and relatives.

The bigger problem here, of course, is the ready availability of sensitive personal information on the Internet to feed the practice of doxxing.  More than 50 entities, loosely defined as data brokers, have compiled comprehensive information profiles about most of us.  This information is then made easily available for anyone to acquire on the Internet.  These sources feed the practice of doxxing and can lead to many different types of assault including the following – which do not need to be life threatening to be debilitating

  • Targeting
  • Physical Stalking
  • Cyber Stalking
  • Bullying
  • Harassment
  • Embarrassment
  • Identity Theft
  • Coercion
  • Extortion
  • Vigilante “Justice”, etc.

This is a serious issue with many having been victimized already.  So, what can we do about this at both individual and organizational levels?  The only practical solution is to remove your personal information from these sites.  But, that task is easier said than done.  More on that subject in Part 2.

For more information in the interim, please visit https://www.manageurid.com

 

 

Tips to Avoid Identity Theft

Identity theft can cause all sorts of trouble for anyone affected by it. In a world so highly dependent on technology, it’s quite easy to leave behind a trail of personal information that can be stolen. The best defense is knowing how to carefully manage this information, and the more people know how to do this, the less rewarding this type of crime becomes for the perpetrators.

Here are a few steps you can take to avoid identity theft:

– Google yourself. Go to google and put in your name and city and see what you find. That is often the starting point for identity thieves. If you find your name and personal information listed, you need to start contacting these sites and get your information removed. It is a hard task, but important one. If you want to do a free search to see what is out there on you, click here to do a FREE risk assessment from ManageURiD, the leader in identity protection.

– Be careful giving out information over the phone. There will obviously be times when you’ll have to provide sensitive information to someone on the phone, but the idea is to avoid it whenever possible. Your best bet is not to give anything out unless the call was initiated by you.

– Shred your sensitive documents.  Always remember that your trash can easily become someone else’s treasure. While you can’t hang on to old bank statements, receipts and credit card offers indefinitely, you can shred them into tiny pieces that are useless to identity thieves. Although any type of shredder offers some degree of protection, a cross-cut shredder is by far the best choice.

– Keep an eye on your credit. One of the best things you can do is make sure your credit reports are always accurate. A credit monitoring service can alert you to changes you wouldn’t otherwise be aware of, providing you with an additional line of defense against identity theft.

– Carry only essential documents. There’s no need to carry any documentation with you that you don’t absolutely need. This includes extra credit cards, birth certificates, Social Security cards or passports that can be lost or stolen.

– Pick up new checks at your bank. When having new checks delivered through the mail, there’s a risk they can be stolen, altered or even cashed by someone else. Your safest bet is to pick them up at your bank.

– Maintain a list of all accounts. If your wallet is ever lost or stolen, it’s important to be able to let your creditors know. Keep a list of your various creditors, their phone numbers and all your account numbers in a safe place. Check this list often to make sure it’s up-to-date.

– Keep track of your billing cycles. One of the first things you can expect an identity thief to do is change your billing address to keep you in the dark about any suspicious activity. Keep up with your billing cycles to make sure you’re still getting your bills, so you can go over each transaction.

– Create difficult passwords. Don’t use passwords that can be easily figured out, such as those that include names and significant dates. Instead, use a random mix of letters, numbers and symbols.

– Hide your Social Security Number. Avoid carrying anything that has your social security number on it. Also, don’t allow your bank to print it on your personal checks.

The most important thing to remember is that identity thieves are trying at least as hard to get your information as you are trying to prevent them from getting it. In fact, it’s still possible to have your information stolen despite your best efforts. There are no guarantees when it comes to preventing any type of crime, but there is a lot you can do to make it more difficult for those who make it their business to exploit others.