7 Steps to Safer Passwords for All Your Online Accounts

It seems like everything you do on any of your digital devices requires a password and the requirements for these security codes are getting more and more extensive. Some sites don’t allow words that can be found in dictionaries, while others don’t want any logical sequences or personal elements like a house number, street name, zip code, birth date, birth year, child’s name or pet’s name. Many accounts require your password to have both uppercase and lowercase letters, as well as numbers, special characters and a specific minimum and maximum length. The list goes on and on.

So while you might still use poodle1234 to log into your old email account, that password may not get approved for more current accounts. (You probably don’t want to be using the same password across multiple accounts, anyway.)

The strongest passwords are typically long and random, as this makes them harder for hackers to guess. Because of this, passwords often end up looking like gibberish, like: (&cR=x?fae~c[R5GAs3AN4?.

Remembering Complex Passwords

It isn’t easy to remember all of these long, random, complex passwords and some websites disable password saving on their login screens, but there are password managers that can help. They’re available from a variety of sources, including anti-virus software providers and standalone password services. If you’re looking to try out a password manager tool, but aren’t sure where to start, we’ve highlighted four common ones below to help you get started researching your options.

It’s important to make sure you feel safe with any of these options, as you don’t want your passwords to fall into the wrong hands. A weak password could help make you a victim of identity theft, which can wreak havoc on your finances. While you’re beefing up your passwords, another good practice is to regularly monitor your credit for signs of identity theft, like a sudden drop in your scores. You can check two of your credit scores for free on Credit.com. (Note: The password managers below all use encryption to protect your data.)

LastPass

LastPass, a free password manager, generates random passwords using a browser toolbar extension. You can access the passwords using your LastPass account menu, stored right in your browser bar. However, once you’ve saved credentials for a particular site, it will show up automatically in a popup when you click the icon. Do you have three different Gmail accounts? No problem. You can save multiple login credentials for any site. You can also edit the credentials and you can share passwords with others if you want someone else to have access to one of your accounts, even if the password changes. (Just make sure you’re selective about who you share personal information with.) You can use LastPass across multiple devices, and your password vault is available even if you’re offline.

Google Smart Lock

Google Smart Lock runs in the Chrome web browser and will automatically log you into the sites you visit if you turn on this feature. Once active, Google will ask you if you want to save the account info when you log into sites.

To get an overview of your saved information, visit myaccount.google.com. Start at “Sign-in & security,” click on “Connected apps & sites” and scroll down to “Saved passwords.” Click on “Manage passwords” to see options. If you turn on Smart Lock, Google will log you into saved websites and bypass the login screen. You don’t want to turn this feature on if you’re uncomfortable being removed from the login process.

Your Google account is the master login for the Smart Lock feature. That makes password management extremely convenient, but it also means that if someone gains access to your Google account, they can also access and control your passwords. Google Smart Lock does not include a password generator and it doesn’t work on iPhones or browsers other than Chrome.

Norton Identity Safe

Norton Identify Safe is a free password manager made by Symantec, the company behind the well-known Norton AntiVirus products. It is installed on your computer and any other device you choose, as well as your browser. You’ll find a link to a random password generator right at the top of the Norton Identity Safe website.

When you set it up, you’ll need two passwords: one for your account and one for your password vault. Both passwords should be complex but memorable because your stored passwords will be inaccessible until you open the vault.

Once you enter your various login credentials in the app, the sites appear in an alphabetical list in your password vault. A colored bar tells you whether your password is weak (red), moderate (yellow) or strong (green).

Norton Identity Safe can also securely store your credit card numbers for easy online payments. (It’s important to be careful when you’re sharing personal information like credit card numbers online, as this can open you up to credit card fraud.)

SecureSafe

SecureSafe is a cloud storage service for sensitive files and passwords. File storage is its standout feature. If you need to store a digital copy of a sensitive file (like one of these seven documents you need to fill out before you die), a SecureSafe free account includes 100 MB of file storage space and can save up to 50 passwords. Paid accounts (starting at $18/year) get unlimited passwords and more file storage space. The app includes a variety of security features for file storage, including a free, secure PDF viewer for smartphones.

When you open the app on desktop or mobile, passwords are listed alphabetically. If you’ve entered the URL, you can click the arrow icon to go straight to the site. The password is copied to your clipboard automatically so you can paste it into the field on the login screen. The clipboard is erased after a short period of time; the time period is customizable.

SecureSafe doesn’t run as a browser extension, so you need to log into your account to access your passwords. This is an advantage for people who don’t want extension clutter or popups, or for people who use shared devices. The extra steps are cumbersome, though, for anyone who wants passwords to automatically populate.

Want to learn more about how to keep your information safe? Here are eight ways to protect your privacy online.

Image: pixelfit

Source: credit.com

I Tried to Buy a Fake Puppy Online, & Here’s What Happened

I knew going into this adventure that I was dealing with a scam artist who was trying to cheat people out of their money by tugging at their puppy-loving heartstrings. See, I’d written a piece about this scam just a couple of weeks ago after a woman in San Diego almost fell prey to it.

While researching that story, I decided to send a text to the phone number the scammers had used in multiple eBay ads, saying they had adorable puppies named Roxy, Ricky, Rose and Tina (they had ads for at least Old English Sheepdogs and Boxers, all by these names, and were advertising them in San Diego, Baltimore and possibly other areas). The fraudulent sellers had already pulled the ads from eBay after their con was spotted by the woman in San Diego, but a few days after I sent my text inquiring if the pups were still available, I got a response.

Get Help Now

Privacy Policy

Here’s how it went:

puppy-scam1

Now, as I said, I already knew these folks weren’t on the pup up-and-up. I knew they were going to try to con me out of my money. The ridiculously low price for the “AKC-registered” puppies — just $320 each — was the first clue this wasn’t going to be a legit transaction.

  • I just watched a documentary on the dark web, and I will never feel safe using my credit card again!

  • Luckily I don’t have to worry about that. I have ExtraCredit, so I get $1,000,000 ID protection and dark web scans.

  • I need that peace of mind in my life. What else do you get with ExtraCredit?

  • It’s basically everything my credit needs. I get 28 FICO® scores, rent and utility reporting, cash rewards and even a discount to one of the leaders in credit repair.

  • It’s settled; I’m getting ExtraCredit tonight. Totally unrelated, but any suggestions for my new fear of sharks? I watched that documentary too.

  • …we live in Oklahoma.

There were more clues in their text. First, “please confirm the breed.” These folks were advertising that they had to get rid of their beloved puppies because of a recent move (thus the deep discount), not because they were breeders. Second, “just mail you with pictures.” Their English was a little faulty, which isn’t always an indicator in and of itself, but it’s something to watch for if you’re suspicious of an online transaction, as a lot of these folks operate from outside the country and English is not their first language.

Their first email came with a dozen or so pictures of the puppies, plus some questions so they’d know if I’d be a good caregiver. And, of course, the language issues continued.

Screen Shot 2016-09-15 at 11.29.10 AM

And, to get me emotionally connected, they asked me some more or less legitimate-seeming questions:

Screen Shot 2016-09-15 at 11.31.57 AM

After I answered all the questions and apparently passed muster for being able to provide a loving home, the scammers said they were arranging shipment of the pups, their toys, all their paperwork, etc., and they asked me to wire them the money through Western Union so they could get that process started:Screen Shot 2016-09-15 at 11.38.13 AMBingo. They wanted me to transfer the money to them in a way that is not easily traceable and for which I would have no recourse if they didn’t deliver the pups. As Western Union says on its website, “Western Union money transfer is the best way to send money to people you know and trust.”

But not strangers. Never, ever strangers. Why?

“If you send money to someone you do not know, you run the risk of fraud. Be cautious when a stranger asks you to send money,” the Western Union warning continues. “If you are sending money to a stranger or unknown person requires you to pay this way for goods or services before their delivery (especially offers on the Internet), for transport or insurance, payments as deposit to secure a lease for housing which you have not seen, allow payment of winnings in a lottery or betting, you run the risk of losing money. If still such a transfer is sent, you do so entirely at your own risk. Western Union is not responsible for the correct and proper delivery of goods or services paid through transfers under the brand Western Union.”

I told the “seller” via email that I was uncomfortable doing a cash transfer, but I’d be happy to pick up the puppies personally since I lived so close to Baltimore (which I don’t, actually). They said they had to leave at 4 p.m., but that they’d be happy to let me pick up the puppies at their address that didn’t actually exist. I feigned ignorance of that fact and told them I’d be driving to them soon. Of course, when I “arrived” they were nowhere to be found.

puppy-scam

And, not surprisingly, almost a week later, I’m still waiting.

The bottom line is, never, ever give cash to an online seller for goods undelivered. Always use websites you trust, and never give out any personal information that isn’t a matter of public record. And even then, be wary. Also, if you ever do meet someone to exchange goods, it’s safest to take someone with you and let at least one other person know where you will be and what time you should return.

Fortunately for the people who fall for these kinds of cash-transfer scams, they’re most likely only out the cash they gave away, and it won’t impact their credit. Where the really serious damage from scams can occur is when your identity is stolen or your credit cards are compromised.

If you think you may have fallen for a scam that has compromised your bank or credit card accounts, it’s a good idea to check your financial accounts, credit reports and credit scores frequently for any signs of trouble. Transactions you don’t recognize, unfamiliar entries on your credit report and sudden changes in credit scores are signs of fraud to be immediately addressed. You can check your financial information through your bank or credit union’s online tools. You can keep an eye on your credit by viewing two of your credit scores for free on Credit.com and requesting a copy of your free credit reports by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com.

Image: Dusko Jovic

[embedded content]

Source: credit.com

15 Tips to Protect Your Credit While Traveling

It’s finally time to go on that vacation you’ve waited for all year. Whether you’re headed on a relaxing trip or a wild adventure, your credit cards will be the last thing on your mind. While you’re preparing for your big trip, figuring out how to protect credit your cards while traveling should be on your to-do list.

Thieves and credit scams are becoming a bigger threat, and travelers unknowingly open themselves up to risk, such as credit card fraud, all the time. But don’t worry. When you’re prepared, you can enjoy your travel plans stress-free. Here are a few things you can do to protect your credit—and your identity—the next time you hit the road.

Take Just What You Need

This doesn’t just apply to your suitcase—it applies to your wallet, too. There’s no need to bring all of your credit cards with you when you travel. If you do, you’re opening yourself to additional theft or loss potential. Pick two cards while you’re traveling, in case one gets compromised. While you’re out and about during your vacation, try to bring just one card. You can leave the other in a secure place in your hotel room, like the hotel safe.

Credit vs. Debit—Which One to Choose?

There are a few misconceptions about the safety of credit cards verses debit cards. While there’s a common misconception that credit is safer than debit, the reality is that both your credit and debit card offer nearly the same security.

Both credit cards and debit cards offer protection against fraudulent purchases. And if you have either a Mastercard or Visa, you’re in luck—both offer zero fraud liability. So, whether you favor your credit card or debit card, both are great options for traveling. Just make sure to keep an eye on those foreign transaction fees.

  • I just watched a documentary on the dark web, and I will never feel safe using my credit card again!

  • Luckily I don’t have to worry about that. I have ExtraCredit, so I get $1,000,000 ID protection and dark web scans.

  • I need that peace of mind in my life. What else do you get with ExtraCredit?

  • It’s basically everything my credit needs. I get 28 FICO® scores, rent and utility reporting, cash rewards and even a discount to one of the leaders in credit repair.

  • It’s settled; I’m getting ExtraCredit tonight. Totally unrelated, but any suggestions for my new fear of sharks? I watched that documentary too.

  • …we live in Oklahoma.

Keep an Eye on Your Cards

This might sound like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how easy it is to leave your cards lying around. Make sure that you’re diligent—don’t leave your wallet unattended while you travel. Try to avoid keeping your wallet in a coat pocket, in a purse or backpack hung over a chair, etc. The last thing you want is to reach for your credit card, only to discover that it was stolen.

Don’t Take a Vacation from Monitoring Card Activity

Just because you’re on vacation, doesn’t mean you can take a break from checking your card activity. Keeping an eye on your activity will help you catch any fraudulent activity right away. Make sure to use good judgment when checking your credit card activity.

If you’re logging into your accounts via public wi-fi, make sure it’s secure, and always log out of your accounts on whatever device you’re using. You can also call your credit card company for a list of recent charges to avoid going online.

Sign Up for Text Alerts

Many credit and debit cards offer text alert options to alert you each time a charge is made, or to alert you of suspicious activity. It might be a good idea to activate this option as an extra layer of safety before you travel.

Keep Your Daily Cash Withdrawals Low

If you’re bringing along a card that has a high daily cash-out limit, consider lowering it. That way, if your card is compromised or stolen while you travel, you will have some control over the amount of cash a thief can drain from your account.

Read Your Receipts

This is a good idea whether you’re traveling or just using your card at home. Never sign a receipt before reviewing the charges. Once a receipt bears your signature it can be difficult to dispute those charges–which could potentially put you at financial risk.

Write Down Important Information

It’s always a good idea to have a plan in place for the worst-case scenario. Writing down the phone numbers and account numbers of your credit cards is a good idea in the event your cards or phone are stolen. Keep the written information in a safe place, such as a deposit box in your room, so that you can still contact your card companies and/or bank to alert them if an issue arises.

If you have a Visa or Mastercard, there’s some good news. They both offer emergency services where cardholders can get cash advances or emergency replacement cards.

Be Alert When Using an ATM

Whenever you hit the ATM on your journey, keep your eyes open. Pick an ATM in a safe, public location and take note of anyone suspicious around you before you make a withdrawal. ATMs that are in a secluded area are easy targets for theft. Savvy thieves can use a credit card skimmer in seconds to obtain your card information and commit fraud.

Ask About Security

Wherever you’re staying, whether it’s in a hotel or an Airbnb, ask the owner or manager how to secure their Wi-Fi and checkout systems are before using them. If they can’t guarantee a secure system, don’t take any chances.

Remember That Money is King

If you’re uncomfortable with the security of an establishment’s payment or checkout systems, using cash is always an option. While it’s not a good idea to carry large amounts of money, paying for meal or outing in cash is a surefire way to safeguard your information and protect your credit from potential identity theft and damage.

Unpack Your Wallet

Many of us keep very important information in our wallets on a daily basis, including social security cards and insurance cards. Consider leaving any card or item at home that is non-essential to your travels. An insurance card, for example, often contains enough identifying information to put you at risk if it’s stolen. And the last thing you’d want is for your Social Security number falling into the wrong hands.

Create a Dedicated Email Address

When you’re planning and booking travel, you’re probably exchanging a ton of emails. Consider creating a dedicated email that no one else knows about or has access to. If someone were to get access to an email account, with all of this information, the potential for damage to your credit could be very high.

Safeguard Your Cell Phone

Cell phones are arguably our most personal possession when it comes to financial and identifying information. We all use apps for a lot of different things, from banking to socializing. If you’re logged into all of your apps on your phone, that information is right at the fingertips of anyone that gets their hands on it. Make sure you have password protection or user ID touch set up to get into your phone and consider logging out of all of your apps.

Stay Off Social Media

Posting your whereabouts and advertising the fact that you’re away from home may open you up to risk. Consider what could happen if someone were to gain access to your home, office, or any other location where you keep personal information. Not only can property theft occur, but identity theft as well—it can take years for your credit to recover. Resist the urge to post that status update or photo, and save your social sharing for when you’re back at home.

If you’re concerned about your credit after traveling, you can check your three credit reports for free once a year. To track your credit more regularly, Credit.com’s credit report card is an easy-to-understand breakdown of your credit report information that uses letter grades—plus you get a free credit score updated every 14 days.

Source: credit.com

I Didn’t Open All of These Accounts on My Credit Report. What Should I Do?

Free Credit Report Summary - Payment History

See your payment history?

Payment history is the record of when—and if—you pay your bills. And, it’s one of the main things that creditors look at. Payment history makes up 35% of your credit score—the biggest part. Your report card shows your grade, total late payments and more. See your payment history now »

See How You’re Using Available Credit

How you use credit affects your credit score. Use too much and your score goes down. Your credit utilization ratio, or how much of your credit limit you use, makes up 30% of your credit score. Your credit report card shows your ratio, credit card debt, credit limit and how different factors affect your score. Get your debt usage now »

Free Credit Report Summary - Debt Utilization Free Credit Report Summary - Number of Inquiries

Take a Peek at Your Credit’s Age

Credit age, aka credit history, is the age of your oldest account, not how long you’ve used credit. Creditors want older credit histories. And older accounts are better for your score. Credit age makes up 15% of your score. See your credit history and the ages of the oldest and newest account on your credit report card. Know your credit age now »

See Your Account Mix

Revolving credit, installment loans and the mix of the two—student loans, auto loans, mortgages, etc.—make up 10% of your credit score. A good mix shows creditors you can handle different types of debts. See how many revolving credit accounts and loans you have in your free credit report summary. Check your account mix »

Free Credit Report Summary - Age of Accounts Free Credit Report Summary - Account Mix

Know How Many Inquiries You Have

Every time you apply for a new credit card or loan, it can show up as a hard inquiry on your credit report. That’s true even for denied credit. And hard inquiries make up 10% of your score and can cause it to drop. Applying for credit too frequently is a red flag to creditors. When was your last inquiry? See how many inquiries you have and how long you’ve had them on your report card. Check your inquiries now »

See Why—and How—Your Score Changed

If you want the details of why your score changed, it’s all there. Simply select “See details” for “Why did my score change” to see the historical view of your credit score—and what’s changed it.

Free Credit Report Summary - Age of Accounts

Source: credit.com

The Job Scam That Even You Could Fall For

This might be the most sophisticated job scam I’ve ever seen. Thanks to a near-victim, you’ll get a rare chance to see a real pro almost pull off a nearly perfect digital caper.

You do things when you are job hunting that you wouldn’t normally do. You meet strangers. You share a lot of personal information with the world, on resumes and through job sites. You’re vulnerable. And most critically: You generally need money. It’s a scammer’s dream, and that’s why job-hunting scams are so persistent and prevalent.

Every chance I get, I try to explain that “smart” folks fall for scams all the time — and those at greatest risk are those who think they are too clever for criminals. This is one of those stories.

Get Started Now

Privacy Policy

Josh Belzman is not just a tech savvy worker; he’s spent the better part of the last decade as a social media professional in Seattle. He’s been working in and around the internet’s cesspools for years.

Still, he recently went halfway down the aisle with a criminal offering the false hope of an exciting job in social media. Like all victims and near victims, he couldn’t stop blaming himself as he described the sequence to me— but I can see exactly why Josh danced with the devil.

  • I just watched a documentary on the dark web, and I will never feel safe using my credit card again!

  • Luckily I don’t have to worry about that. I have ExtraCredit, so I get $1,000,000 ID protection and dark web scans.

  • I need that peace of mind in my life. What else do you get with ExtraCredit?

  • It’s basically everything my credit needs. I get 28 FICO® scores, rent and utility reporting, cash rewards and even a discount to one of the leaders in credit repair.

  • It’s settled; I’m getting ExtraCredit tonight. Totally unrelated, but any suggestions for my new fear of sharks? I watched that documentary too.

  • …we live in Oklahoma.

Josh, 39, is job hunting, and he received an email from a woman named Morgan who said she worked for a big law firm and needed contract social media work for $39-$45 an hour. That kind of short-term gig is exactly what people like Josh need while they look for their next career step.

“I probably should have trusted my spidey sense and not engaged at all but you know how it goes when looking for work— your guard and confidence can drop,” he said.

Morgan asked for a Google hangout chat as a first step. Josh did his due diligence, and Googled her. Up came a LinkedIn profile that checked out. She had a long professional history in the Seattle area, including alleged stints as a ski instructor at nearby Snoqualmie Summit. It said she had worked at various law firms dating back to 2009. The firm (I won’t mention it) was real. So he jumped online, ready to answer her questions and ask a few.

Generally, con artists betray themselves during real-time interactions. They speak poor English, they show obvious lack of subject matter knowledge, and there are awkward delays. Morgan exhibited none of those. In fact, her questions for Josh were spot on. Here’s a partial list I pulled from a transcript of their chat.

“Could you give us an example of a limitation on a social platform that you have experienced? How did you overcome this?”

“Have you ever had to handle a Social Media crisis? If so, could you provide an example and how would you describe your work ethics?”

“How would you allocate our Social Media advertising budget and How do you evaluate new social platforms? How do you stay on top of the latest updates and innovations in Social Media?”

“Do you have your own blog? Do you currently write content for various Social Media platforms and why should we hire you?”

Josh answered each one deliberately. After each response, she replied, “good,” “very good,” and eventually “great.” All what you’d expect, or even hope for, during an interview.

Reading through the full transcript, you can see in retrospect that all these questions could have been cut and pasted from a script. In fact, I suspect the criminals somehow lifted them from an actual interview involving a social media position— perhaps they’d applied for a job themselves earlier just to understand what “marks” would expect.

Only once was there something more that might have tipped off Josh. When he, smartly, tried to interrupt and ask his own questions, Morgan’s reaction was a bit off.

Josh: Mind if I ask a few questions about the role?

Morgan: Sure when we done with this process so you can get all the details you need to know.

But that’s it. The rest of the interview went as you might expect. LinkedIn page and all. Until …

Morgan: How soon can you begin work if luckily chosen for the position, do you need any our Company benefits and what means of Payment would you prefer; Check Or Direct Deposit?

Morgan: What bank are you with for Direct deposit/Check so we can see if it tallies with our preferred banks and do you have any question before i move forward?

Josh: I’m not comfortable sharing banking info online.

(Morgan may not be on Hangouts right now. Your messages will be seen later.)

The “line” went immediately dead.

Fortunately, after an hour of “seduction” and with the lure of a $35-an-hour job, Josh did listen to his spidey sense and threw up a roadblock. And as soon as Morgan saw he wouldn’t play along, she “hung up” on him.

An hour or so wasted, but it could have been much worse.

“I should have never entertained this — the initial email was sketchy but I chalked that up to some office admin being asked to help find candidates,” he said. “Going back through I see very few comments in ‘her’ voice— just a lot of cut-and-paste questions and ‘OK good.’ Amazing the tricks your mind plays in you when you’re visualizing a certain situation.”

After the disconnect, Josh called the firm and was told no one by that name worked there.

I, however, did find someone with her name who had posted a resume that was similar. It’s likely the con artists assumed elements of her identity for the scam. I emailed her, and got no response. I also emailed the person who chatted with Josh and got no response.

“The initial email was unsolicited with that odd name but I saw the LinkedIn profile and I’ve had some of those mails come through (job sites),” Josh said. “The hangout thing raised eyebrows but I suspended some of that because I got caught up answering the questions.”

Tips for Avoiding Scammers

So what should you do? The big one: Always trust your gut. I pretty much never talk to anyone who falls for these things who doesn’t say they had a queasy feeling in their stomach at some point.

Also, do what Josh did. Say it out loud: “I’m not comfortable with that.” It’s a handy phrase. A real person will react with an apology to that, like “Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable.” A con artist, or a bad person, will push you instead. Or hang up.

Finally, be realistic. If you are out of work, you are vulnerable. No matter how smart and put together you think you are. Know that going in. You’ll be more likely to hit the pause button if things go south, and generally, hitting pause is enough to scare off bad guys.

Here’s a handy list of ways to spot “Work at Home” scams. And if you think you’ve already fallen prey to an identity theft scam, it’s a good idea to keep an close eye on your credit. New accounts you don’t recognize on your credit reports or a sudden drop in credit scores are signs that fraud is afoot. (You can pull your credit reports for free each year at AnnualCreditReport.com and view two of your credit scores for free each month on Credit.com.) You can find more steps to take if you are an identity theft victim here.

Image: PeopleImages

[embedded content]

Source: credit.com

5 Cyber-Security Myths We Need to Ditch

Pick a subject, any subject, and there are myths and pure nonsense that someone will buy into.

  • Birds will die if they eat the uncooked rice flung at newlyweds. (Nope)
  • If you eat Mentos and drink Diet Coke simultaneously your stomach will explode. (Hardly)
  • You only have one credit score. (Wrong)
  • Napoleon was short. (At 5’ 6”, his height was average in his day).
  • “President Obama was the founder of ISIS.” (Oh, come on Donald!)

Cyber-security has its own set of misconceptions as well. Here are five.

1. Software Will Protect You

Say it with me now: “Software alone is not going to stop cyber-crime, even a little.”

There is no more harmful notion than the one that leads people into doing whatever they want on their computers or smartphones because they downloaded a software update. While software has its benefits, they often have to do with containing damage, not stopping an attack.

The false sense of security fostered by the idea that software can protect anyone from the kinds of daily mutating, highly sophisticated attacks out there today is dangerous.

  • I just watched a documentary on the dark web, and I will never feel safe using my credit card again!

  • Luckily I don’t have to worry about that. I have ExtraCredit, so I get $1,000,000 ID protection and dark web scans.

  • I need that peace of mind in my life. What else do you get with ExtraCredit?

  • It’s basically everything my credit needs. I get 28 FICO® scores, rent and utility reporting, cash rewards and even a discount to one of the leaders in credit repair.

  • It’s settled; I’m getting ExtraCredit tonight. Totally unrelated, but any suggestions for my new fear of sharks? I watched that documentary too.

  • …we live in Oklahoma.

Find Your Card Now

Privacy Policy

2. Cyber-Crime Is Mostly About Credit Card Fraud

The idea that cyber-crime is just about credit card fraud is a pernicious misconception that, ironically, can lead to credit card fraud and other forms of credit-related crimes.

There is no right answer to the question regarding the most prevalent forms of cyber-crime. But by far the majority of the capers out there are focused on grabbing colossal amounts of personal identifying information from organizations that do business with millions of people or, alternately, stealing confidential business information that can be sold to the highest-bidding competitor. Sure, there are other forms of attack, some of them very much on the rise, such as ransomware schemes, but by and large the focus among cyber-criminals is on sellable information and making a lot more money than can be had from a credit pump-and-dump.

That said, the ways that stolen information can be used leads back to consumers and can very easily result in credit fraud, since stolen data can be easily purchased by identity thieves for next to nothing on the dark web.

3. Cyber-Crime Is Only About Making a Buck

If cyber-crime were only about making money, we’d all be a lot safer than we are right now.

Let that sink in.

Make no mistake, there are hordes of hackers out there driven by ideology. Many are far less interested in making money than in making money disappear or taking down the electrical grid or rigging an election. For them, mere monetary reward is not a motivation unless it is needed to facilitate an attack.

This is the stuff of nightmares and blockbuster Hollywood films, and there isn’t a thing most of us can do to stop any of it from happening.

In a world where the Stuxnet worm that was used to attack Iran’s nuclear program is quaint technology and detonating a hydrogen bomb would inflict less casualties than a cyber-attack that shuts off the power grid, having our credit ruined by a pajama-wearing identity thief is the least of our worries.

4. Cyber-Criminals Don’t Target Small Businesses

The myth that cyber-criminals don’t focus on businesses that aren’t at the top of the food chain can be debunked with one name: Target. The company was hacked by one remove. The criminals managed to get malware on a far-flung point-of-sale system by coming in the side door. They merely had to compromise a smaller HVAC vendor.

No matter how small the enterprise, it must have serious security protocols and a meaningful cyber-defense plan, lest it suffer an extinction-level event and potentially bring down a whole lot of other folks with it.

5. There Is No Way to Stop a Cyber-Attack

This is the biggest myth out there, in my opinion. Except, of course, that in the final analysis it is true: There is no way to stop every single cyber-attack.

That said, for many attacks, PEBCAK is the answer. Unfamiliar with this approach? It’s an oldie but goodie that anyone in IT will recognize, the letters forming an acronym that neatly states why countless attacks are successful. PEBCAK stands for Problem Exists Between Chair and Keyboard.

While it is true that cyber-threats abound, the only way to contain the pandemic and meaningfully push back is if everybody does what they are supposed to do. That is a big “if.” But one can hope, and while fixing the human problem is a Herculean task, it’s a worthy goal.

If you’re concerned you’ve been a victim of identity theft, it’s important to keep an eye on your credit as new accounts in your name or a sudden drop in credit scores indicate fraud has occurred. You can view two of your free credit scores, updated monthly, by visiting Credit.com.

This story is an Op/Ed contribution to Credit.com and does not necessarily represent the views of the company or its partners.

Image: PeopleImages

[embedded content]

Source: credit.com

7 Texts You Should Ignore

Whether you’re trying to win tickets to a sold-out concert, remind your partner to buy milk, vote for your favorite reality TV personality or ask your headphones-encased kid a question, there’s a text for that. While texting is a great convenience and time saver (not to mention an international obsession), if you respond to a wrong text — think: Wyle E. Coyote and the Roadrunner — look out below!

Phishing via text works the same way as email, the only difference is format, tone and, of course, length. The goal remains to commandeer as much information about you as possible (to use for fraud) and/or take control of your device. The pilfered information can be seriously harmful to your sanity, not to mention your finances, since scam artists are always looking to make a quick buck at your expense.

There are many texts you should handle with kid gloves, and still others that you should ignore.

Get Help Now

Privacy Policy

I’m not talking about the obvious “don’ts” here, like looking at texts that were not sent to you. (Oh, and in case you missed that memo, sneaking a peak at your partner’s texts is and always will be a one-way ticket to relational oblivion.) What you need to worry about are texts that could have plausibly been sent to you.

This latter category of text is not always obviously fraudulent. The same thing that makes texting second nature to you is what makes it a potential hazard to your personal information safety.

  • I just watched a documentary on the dark web, and I will never feel safe using my credit card again!

  • Luckily I don’t have to worry about that. I have ExtraCredit, so I get $1,000,000 ID protection and dark web scans.

  • I need that peace of mind in my life. What else do you get with ExtraCredit?

  • It’s basically everything my credit needs. I get 28 FICO® scores, rent and utility reporting, cash rewards and even a discount to one of the leaders in credit repair.

  • It’s settled; I’m getting ExtraCredit tonight. Totally unrelated, but any suggestions for my new fear of sharks? I watched that documentary too.

  • …we live in Oklahoma.

Regardless of their apparent merit, instead of replying to unsolicited texts directly, you should call the purported sender directly to be sure they aren’t trying to contact you.

With that in mind, here are seven texts you’ll want to be wary of.

1. Texts From Your Bank With Links

Automatic transaction alerts are an excellent security measure. You can set an alert on your checking and savings accounts to cover all kinds of parameters, such as the minimum balance you have to maintain without incurring a fee, a trigger amount on a withdrawal and more. These can be delivered via text, and here’s the thing: the SMS version from your bank will never contain a link. If you get one that does, ignore it. You can also call your bank directly.

2. Texts From the IRS

This is the easiest phishing scam to detect. The IRS never sends texts — ever. It’s also worth noting that the IRS won’t email you about official business either. The only way to do business with the IRS is via the United States Postal Service or by telephone — and if you are contacted by phone, it’s a good rule of thumb to tell the person who called you that you are concerned about security, and you need a reference number or department because you are going to call back on the IRS main phone line about whatever the matter may be. Also keep in mind that just because your caller ID tells you the incoming call is from the IRS does not mean it is the IRS since many phishers are consummate “spoofers.”

3. Texts From Your Credit Card Company With a Call to Action

This is similar to a text from your bank, but with more options for failure. You may have transaction alerts set that get delivered via text. You may have also consented to promotional notices. The bottom line with texts from your credit card company: whatever they are allegedly saying to you via text, they will say to you on the phone. Ignore any texts with a call to action, even if you want to take the action, and call your credit card company directly on the number designated on the back of your credit card. Especially ignore the text if it says that clicking on the link (or calling the number) is the only way to get a particular promotion.

4. Unsolicited Texts From Your Doctor, Lawyer, or Accountant

Businesses that collect a lot of personal information from clients, like medical practices, law firms or accounting firms can be prime targets for hackers. If you get a text from any of these folks, no matter how convincing, and no matter how much about you they seem to know (remember, these same professionals may not have the best defenses against hackers), ignore the text and call them.

5. Random Texts From Your Mortgage Company

I am guessing you’re getting the gist of this game, but any seemingly official notification about one’s mortgage somehow has the ability to completely unhinge people, especially if there is a problem. As data breaches have become the third certainty in life, it is quite likely your mortgage information is out there. If a scammer gets ahold of it, they might try to scare you into taking an action via text, like sending payments to a new address. Ignore them and call your mortgage holder.

[embedded content]

6. Scary Texts From Your Auto Lender

Nothing is quite as classic in the storybook of personal finance as the repo man coming to take your car. Because it’s a common nightmare scenario, we are liable to fall for it. Ignore any texts you get from your auto lender. Instead of replying, always call to find out what you already know: someone just tried to scam you.

7. Promotional Texts From Your Favorite Game

Don’t be embarrassed. We all have a game we like to play, and so do our kids. The problem here is that for real devotees, there is very little one won’t do to get an edge. Whether it’s buying points or weapons or secrets, or getting the latest upgrade the second it’s released, true gamers are a juicy target for scammers who send texts hawking special promotions, and they are less likely to be careful about whom they give their contact information to, since getting more game time is more important than anything. Same rule applies here: ignore any text that you get, and make sure your kids do as well. Go online and find the promotion from a reputable site.

If you think you’ve responded to a phishing text, you should monitor your credit for signs of identity theft. (You can do so by pulling your credit reports for free each year at AnnualCreditReport.com and viewing your credit scores for free each month on Credit.com.)

When it comes to staying safe, let restraint be your co-pilot. A little pause goes a long way and you don’t want to end up being the get for scammers.

More Money-Saving Reads:

Image: Todor Tsvetkov

Source: credit.com