If you haven't received an email by now offering you a huge sum of money in exchange for a small initial deposit or fee, you should feel a little left out.
According to "Financial Fraud and Fraud Susceptibility in the United States," a new report from the FINRA Investor Education Foundation, 67 percent of consumers have received this type of email. Another 36 percent have received a letter that says they've won a lottery in a country they've never visited.
The survey found that all told, more than 8 in 10 consumers have been asked to participate in a potentially fraudulent offer.
By Fredricka Ransome
Joan Harwood, treasurer of Dartmouth Fire District No. 3 in Massachusetts, handles an annual budget of about $1 million. While doing some routine online banking for the firehouse in 2010, she discovered that $375,000 was missing from the account.
It turned out that her computer had been infected with a malicious computer program, Zeus Trojan, that enabled hackers to access the account and steal the money. Zeus spies on keyboards and captures keystrokes to swipe usernames and passwords.
Harwood was far from Zeus Trojan's only victim. Using the malware, a cybercrime ring operating out of Russia made off with more than $70 million from online bank accounts.
Cybercrime -- which ranges from bank account hacking to phishing (in which fraudulent emails are sent with the aim of obtaining data or cash from the recipient) -- is vast. According to the Internet Crime Complaint Center, consumers lost more than $525 million to cybercrimes last year -- an 8.3 percent rise from 2011.
A study by McAfee and the Center for Strategic and International Studies estimates that the cost of cybercrime may exceed $100 billion a year. While hackers hone their craft of manipulating computer users, Michael Kaiser, the executive director of the National Cyber Security Alliance, provides seven ways consumers can protect themselves.
By Michele Lerner
While identity theft is a large and growing problem for all demographics in society (even children), seniors tend to be victims of the types of identity theft that experts at the Experian credit bureau say are rising fastest: cases involving tax returns and medical care.
Why Are Seniors So Vulnerable?
There are several reasons seniors are at a higher risk of identity theft than their younger counterparts, says Ken Chaplin, Senior Vice President of Marketing for Experian's ProtectMyID.
"Thieves realize seniors are more likely to have paid off loans and are probably carrying less credit card debt than other age groups, which makes them a low risk for creditors," Chaplin says. That means that a criminal applying for credit using an older victim's information is more likely to be approved.
Chaplin says that seniors also don't typically check their credit reports as often as younger age groups, who are more likely to be monitoring their credit in preparation for buying a home, car, or applying for a store or bank credit card. "That means they likely won't see when someone is using their identity to take out a loan or apply for other forms of credit, making seniors an easier target for identity thieves."
Chaplin offers the following tips for seniors to help them avoid becoming a victim of identity theft.
By Matt Brownell
The recent revelation of widespread snooping by the NSA has a lot of Americans concerned about how much information the government is able to gather on them.
But you don't need to be a government spy to dig up personal details on the average American. Identity thieves can use publicly available services like Google and Facebook -- as well as a few lesser-known tools -- to gather personal information on their intended victims.
I wanted to know just how much information about me is floating around out there. So I hired someone to invade my personal life.
By Bruce Watson
Can consumers protect themselves from the NSA's domestic spying operations?
As more information emerges, the answer seems to be an emphatic "no." On Monday, whistleblower Edward Snowden explained that the NSA routinely engages in "incidental" collection of e-mails and the storing of millions of private messages indefinitely. He alleged that analysts regularly view this information, even if they do not have warrants to do so.
Snowden's claims seem to jibe with federal law as it is currently written. Because of 2008 amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the NSA can quite possibly justify listening into almost any domestic conversation or gaining access to almost any domestic e-mail. As Salon's Roxanne Palmer explained on Tuesday, the actual mechanisms for recording data are remarkably simple and commonplace. Even easier if, as the NSA document obtained by The Washington Post claimed, PRISM entails "collection directly from the servers" of major internet companies. The nine named companies -- including Yahoo, Google, Facebook, YouTube and AOL (the parent company of DailyFinance) -- have denied the claim, but such data collection is also covered by the FISA Amendments Act, which legally requires companies to grant the government access to their servers.
With more than 900 million users, Mark Zuckerberg's expanding social media empire has become a seemingly irreplaceable part of the online experience. Unfortunately, a byproduct of its success is that millions of Americans are far more at risk of falling victim to a number of cyber crimes.
To be sure, cyber crime is nothing new, but the social media revolution has made such crimes much easier to commit. People have "friends" they've never met; they make personal information widely available. And Facebook's hundreds of millions of users are a rich pool of targets.
According to an infographic published earlier this year by ZoneAlarm, a leading Internet security software provider, "roughly 4 million Facebook users experience spam on a daily basis, 20% of Facebook users have been exposed to malware," and Facebook receives 600,000 reports of hijacked log-ins every day.
Malware represents another growing threat for Facebook users, Dr. Kent Seamons, assistant professor in the computer science department at Brigham Young University said. "Hackers get malware on your machine and get tens if not hundreds of thousands of these machines under their control and then they rent them out to spammers and others," Seamons explains.
These rented accounts can then be used to advertise products illicitly or to request money from unsuspecting friends.
Ultimately, all social media sites make it easier for criminals to deceive their victims. According to a study published in Communications of ACM, a journal for computing professionals, the percentage of students that responded to a phishing email increased from 16% to 72% when the email included relevant social information about the target. Quite simple, scams that make it appear that a message comes from a friend make it more likely that the target will respond.These are nine of the ways criminals use Facebook:
After the third time this happened, she called up the credit union and asked them to knock it off.
"I finally told them if my card is stolen in Detroit, I'd call them, but they should stop blocking my card every time I paid for something in a new part of the city," she says.
Credit card banks are understandably reluctant to disclose the precise criteria they use to detect fraud, but we were able to find out what sorts of purchases tend to set off your bank's alarm bells. Here are a few of the warning signs they look for.
Filed under: Identity Theft
By Matt Brownell
No one is safe from identity theft -- not even John Roberts, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
On the morning that the Supreme Court was scheduled to hear arguments about gay marriage, Roberts was overheard telling a barista at his local Starbucks that he would have to pay cash for his coffee, as his credit card information had been stolen. The Associated Press spoke to a Supreme Court spokesperson, who confirmed that someone got hold of one of the Chief Justice's credit card account numbers. Apparently that meant that Roberts had to use cash while he waited for a new card from the bank.
Supreme Court Justices: They're just like us!
Filed under: Identity Theft
By Michele Lerner
As if parents didn't have enough on their minds, now they have to worry about making sure their offspring aren't in the crosshairs of financial scammers. According to AllClear ID, an identity-theft protection company, children are 35 times more likely than adults to be identity theft victims.
It's hard to nail down exactly how pervasive the crime really is.
Erik Larson, president and founder of NextAdvisor.com, a company that analyzes identity-theft protection products, says between 2.5 percent and 10 percent of Americans under age 18 have had their identity stolen.
And according to a recent report by AllClear based on a survey of 27,000 financial records between September 2010 and December 2011, nearly 11 percent of kids had their personal information stolen. "The reason the data on this is incomplete is that people often don't know an identity theft has taken place," says Larson. "They don't realize it for years sometimes."
The way most young people find out they have been victimized is that they turn 18 and apply for their first job, first credit card, or a student loan and discover they already have bad credit.
"In the Boston area, a 17-year-old applied for a job and the employer pulled his credit," says Larson. "It turned out someone had used his Social Security number and bought a $47,000 houseboat and then defaulted on the loan. The boat had been purchased when he was just 7 years old."