Category Archives: Computer Law

Report tax identity theft with IdentityTheft.gov

If you’re a tax professional, business owner, or in a human resources department, the FTC and IRS can help you help clients, employees, or other people who discover they’re victims of tax-related identity theft.IdentityTheft.gov website on a laptop, tablet, and smartphone.

 Tax-related identity theft happens when someone uses your stolen Social Security number (SSN) to file a tax return and claim your refund. You might find out about it when you try to e-file — only to find that someone else already has submitted a return — or when the IRS sends you a letter saying it has identified a suspicious tax return that used your SSN. That’s when you’ll need to file an IRS Identity Theft Affidavit (IRS Form 14039), so that the IRS can begin resolving your case.

 Until now, you had to complete an Affidavit from the IRS website, print it, then fax or mail it to the IRS. Now, the FTC and IRS have collaborated to let people report tax-related identity theft to the IRS online, using the FTC’s IdentityTheft.gov website. It’s the only place you can submit your IRS Form 14039 electronically.

 What are the benefits? IdentityTheft.gov will:

Walk you through the process of completing the Form 14039

  • Transfer your Form 14039 to the IRS securely
  • Guide you through placing fraud alerts on your credit files, checking your credit reports, and taking other steps to stop the tax identity theft from harming your accounts, and
  • Help you resolve any other problems the tax identity theft may have caused.

Here’s how it works: IdentityTheft.gov will first ask you questions to collect the information the IRS needs, then use your information to populate the Form 14039 and let you review it. Once you’re satisfied, you can submit the Form 14039 to the IRS through IdentityTheft.gov and download a copy for yourself. About 30 days later, the IRS will send you a letter confirming it received the information.

Remember, though — filing the Affidavit doesn’t eliminate the need to pay your taxes. If you couldn’t e-file your tax return, you’ll still need to mail it to the IRS and pay any taxes you owe.

You may share this information with any victims of tax-related identity theft you encounter and remind them to visit IdentityTheft.gov to report the problem and get recovery help.

If you or your business have legal questions or concerns regarding computer law, privacy, or cybersecurity law matters, contact attorney Jeffrey A. Franklin at Prince Law Offices.

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Investing in Bitcoin – Cryptocurrencies

Clients have been asking me about investing in Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies.  The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently provided some helpful advice.  ftc-seal

You do your best to keep up with the latest financial news. You’ve been hearing more about cryptocurrencies and asking yourself “Hmmm.” Of course, it’s not just Bitcoin. There are now hundreds of cryptocurrencies, which are a type of digital currency, on the market. They’ve been publicized as a fast and inexpensive way to pay online, but many are now also being marketed as investment opportunities. But before you decide to purchase cryptocurrency as an investment, here are a few things to consider:

  • Cryptocurrencies aren’t backed by a government or central bank. Unlike most traditional currencies, such as the dollar or yen, the value of a cryptocurrency is not tied to promises by a government or a central bank.
  • If you store your cryptocurrency online, you don’t have the same protections as a bank account. Holdings in online “wallets” are not insured by the government like U.S. bank deposits are.
  • A cryptocurrency’s value can change constantly and dramatically. An investment that may be worth thousands of dollars on Tuesday could be worth only hundreds on Wednesday. If the value goes down, there’s no guarantee it will rise again.
  • Nothing about cryptocurrencies makes them a foolproof investment. Just like with any investment opportunity, there are no guarantees.
  • No one can guarantee you’ll make money off your investment. Anyone who promises you a guaranteed return or profit is likely scamming you. Just because the cryptocurrency is well-known or has celebrities endorsing it doesn’t mean it’s a good investment.
  • Not all cryptocurrencies or the companies behind them are the same. Before you decide to invest in a cryptocurrency, look into the claims the company is making. Do an internet search with the name of the company and the cryptocurrency with words like review, scam, or complaint. Look through several pages of search results.

Read more about Investing Online.

Want to learn more about the technology underlying cryptocurrencies? See my earlier blog post Blockchain Technology Overview https://blog.princelaw.com/2018/02/07/blockchain-technology-overview/

If you or your business have legal questions or concerns regarding computer law, privacy, or cybersecurity law matters, contact attorney Jeffrey A. Franklin at Prince Law Offices.

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Blockchain Technology Overview

When and if to use blockchain

Aiming to clarify blockchain, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) recently released an introduction to blockchain, which underpins Bitcoin and other digital currencies.
blockchain_illustration_KIrvineShutterstock

Credit: K. Irvine/NIST/Shutterstock

 

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Online Dating and Relationship Scams

Valentine’s Day is around the corner, but if an online love interest asks you for money, it’s probably a scam.online-dating-scams-3_350

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) receives thousands of reports each year about romance scammers who create fake online relationships only to rob their victims.

Millions of Americans use dating sites, social networking sites and chat rooms to meet people, but scammers use them too, and eventually the scammers ask for money.

The FTC’s new infographic, developed with the American Bankers Association Foundation, lists common signs of online dating scams and how to handle them.

How to Recognize a Scam

The relationship may not be what you think, especially if your sweetheart:

  • wants to leave the dating site immediately and use personal email or IM
  • claims love in a heartbeat
  • claims to be from the U.S., but is traveling or working overseas
  • plans to visit, but is prevented by a traumatic event or a business deal gone sour

Scammers also like to say they’re out of the country for business or military service.

What You Can Do About It

You may lose your heart, but you don’t have to lose your shirt, too. Don’t wire money to cover:

  • travel
  • medical emergencies
  • hotel bills
  • hospital bills for a child or other relative
  • visas or other official documents
  • or losses from a temporary financial setback

Don’t send money to tide someone over after a mugging or robbery, and don’t do anyone a favor by making an online purchase or forwarding a package to another country. One request leads to another, and delays and disappointments will follow. In the end, your money will be gone along with the person you thought you knew.

Report relationship scams to:

If you or your business have legal questions or concerns regarding computer law, privacy, or cybersecurity law matters, contact attorney Jeffrey A. Franklin at Prince Law Offices.

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Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week January 29-February 2

It is tax time.  The tax scammers are gearing-up.  Learn how to protect yourself during Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week January 29-February 2, 2018.IRS

Tax identity theft occurs when a person uses someone else’s Social Security number to either file a tax return and claim the victim’s refund, or to earn wages that are reported as the victim’s income, leaving the victim with the tax bill.

The Federal Trade Commision, the Internal Revenue Service, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, and others throughout the week are hosting free webinars and Twitter chats focused on steps consumers and businesses can take to help avoid tax identity theft and recover if it occurs. There will also be discussions about ways to identify and avoid IRS imposter scams that target consumers and businesses.

The events include:

  • January 29 at 2 p.m. ET: A webinar for consumers on tax identity theft and IRS imposter scams, how to protect yourself, and how to recover, co-hosted by the FTC and the Identity Theft Resource Center.
  • January 30 at 2:30 p.m. ET: A webinar for older adults and other consumers on tax identity theft and IRS imposter scams, co-hosted by the FTC, AARP Fraud Watch Network, the AARP Foundation Tax-Aide program, and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.
  • January 31 at 11 a.m. ET: A Twitter chat for service members, veterans, and their families, co-hosted by the FTC and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Join the conversation at #VeteranIDTheft.
  • January 31 at 1 p.m. ET: A closed webinar co-hosted by the FTC, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, focused on tax identity theft and IRS imposter scams. This webinar is only available to Veterans Administration employees and patients.
  • February 1 at 1 p.m. ET: A webinar for small businesses, Protecting Sensitive Business and Customer Data: Practical Identity Safety Practices for Your Business, co-hosted by the FTC and IRS focused on tax identity theft, imposter scams targeting businesses, cybersecurity practices to reduce your risk, and data breach response.
  • February 1 at 3 p.m. ET: A Twitter chat for consumers on protecting yourself from tax identity theft, co-hosted by the FTC and the Identity Theft Resource Center. Join the conversation at #IDTheftChat.

If you or your business have legal questions or concerns regarding computer law, privacy, or cybersecurity law matters, contact attorney Jeffrey A. Franklin at Prince Law Offices.

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BEC Attacks to Exceed $9B in 2018

Business email compromise is projected to skyrocket as attackers adopt sophisticated techniques to dupe their victims.

Business email compromise (BEC) attacks are projected to exceed $9 billion in 2018. The attacks continue to become more sophisticated and fleece more money from U.S. businesses.

How it works

There has been an increase of computer intrusions linked to BEC scams, involving fraudsters impersonating high level executives, sending phishing emails from seemingly legitimate sources, and requesting wire transfers to alternate, fraudulent accounts. In some cases these methods ultimately lead to successful intrusion and unfettered access to their victims’ credentials.

The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) puts BEC attacks in five categories: Bogus Invoice Schemes, CEO Fraud, Account Compromise, Attorney Impersonation, and Data

IC3PressReleaseBanner3

Theft. More information is available from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) IC3.

Growth Industry

The combination of simplicity and effectiveness have ensured that BEC will continue to be one of the most popular attacks according to a January 18, 2018 Trend Micro report “Delving into the World of Business Email Compromise (BEC).” Researchers analyzed BEC as a cybercriminal operation from January through September 2017, dissecting tools and strategies commonly used in these attacks to predict activity for this year.

The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) puts BEC attacks in five categories: Bogus Invoice Schemes, CEO Fraud, Account Compromise, Attorney Impersonation, and Data Theft. In this case, researchers split them in two: Credential-grabbing and Email-only. Attackers must be proficient in at least one of these methods for the scheme to work, researchers report.

Defending against the scam

Businesses are advised to stay vigilant and educate employees on how to prevent being victimized by BEC scams and other similar attacks. It’s important to know that cybercriminals do not care about your company’s size—the more victims, the better. Additionally, cybercriminals need not to be highly technical as they can find tools and services that cater to all levels of technical expertise in the cybercriminal underground. Here are some tips on how to avoid these scams:

• Employee awareness and education is the first step. Organizations should train employees how to spot phishing attacks.

• Email is often used to perform BEC attacks, relying on deception and social engineering to trick employees into downloading files, visiting websites or providing information. End users should know what to look out for when it comes to email—as even the most convincing BEC attacks typically have telltale signs that can be used to distinguish a legitimate email from a malicious one.

• Verify the legitimacy of fund transfer requests, especially those that involve large amounts. Just because the request seemingly comes from an executive, it does not mean that it is legitimate. If possible, confirm the request directly with the person who sent the request if there is something unusual or suspicious about the request.

• For vendors and suppliers, organizations should verify payment requests and invoices before transferring funds. If the vendor or supplier suddenly provides a different payment location, consider it a red flag and verify the change via a secondary sign-off by company personnel.

• Any request should be verified and challenged. If the request comes in via email, making a phone call or face-to-face discussion with the person making the request to ensure its validity will help mitigate BEC attacks. Use known good telephone numbers, not those in the email.

• Building a culture of security within the organization from top to bottom.

What to do

If you suspect that you have been a victim of a BEC email, report the incident to your company and financial institution immediately.  Also, consider filing a complaint with the IC3 no matter how much the amount.

If you or your business have legal questions or concerns regarding computer law, privacy, or cybersecurity law matters, contact attorney Jeffrey A. Franklin at Prince Law Offices.

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Section 508 Gets an Update: New Web Accessibility Guidelines for Government Sites Take Effect January 18

Today, January 18, 2018 new website accessibility requirements (such as screen reader compatibility for hearing and sight impaired) for federal websites became effective. 

The U.S. Access Board in a published final rule updating accessibility requirements for information and communication technology (ICT) covered by Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act became effective today.

Updated Section 508 Standards for Federal ICT

Section 508 and 255 Refresh with reload iconThe Access Board’s final rule revises and refreshes its standards for information and communication technology in the federal sector covered by Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The Board’s Section 508 Standards, which were first issued in 2000, apply to ICT developed, procured, maintained, or used by federal agencies. Examples include computers, telecommunications equipment, multifunction office machines such as copiers that also function as printers, software, websites, information kiosks and transaction machines, and electronic documents.

Goals of the Refresh

The Board updated the 508 Standards and 255 Guidelines jointly to ensure consistency in accessibility across the spectrum of information and communication technologies (ICT) covered. Other goals of this refresh include:

  • enhancing accessibility to ICT for people with disabilities;
  • making the requirements easier to understand and follow;
  • updating the requirements so that they stay abreast of the ever-changing nature of the technologies covered; and
  • harmonizing the requirements with other standards in the U.S. and abroad.

Major Changes

The final rule revises both the structure and substance of the ICT requirements to further accessibility, facilitate compliance, and make the document easier to use. Major changes include:

  • restructuring provisions by functionality instead of product type due to the increasingly multi-functional capabilities of ICT;
  • incorporating the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 by reference and applying Level A and Level AA Success Criteria and Conformance Requirements to websites, as well as to non-web electronic documents and software;
  • specifying the types of non-public facing electronic content that must comply;
  • requiring that operating systems provide certain accessibility features;
  • clarifying that software and operating systems must interoperate with assistive technology (such as screen magnification software and refreshable braille displays);
  • addressing access for people with cognitive, language, and learning disabilities; and
  • harmonizing the requirements with international standards.

Incorporation of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)

W3C WCAG 2.0 logoThe final rule incorporates by reference a number of voluntary consensus standards, including WCAG 2.0. Issued by the W3C’s Web Accessibility Initiative, WCAG 2.0 is a globally recognized, technology-neutral standard for web content. The final rule applies WCAG 2.0 not only to web-based content, but to all electronic content. The benefits of incorporating the WCAG 2.0 into the Section 508 Standards and the 255 Guidelines and applying it in this manner are significant. WCAG 2.0 addresses new technologies and recognizes that the characteristics of products, such as native browser behavior and plug-ins and applets, have converged over time. A substantial amount of WCAG 2.0 support material is available, and WCAG 2.0-compliant accessibility features are already built into many products. Further, use of WCAG 2.0 promotes international harmonization as it is referenced by, or the basis for, standards issued by the European Commission, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Germany, and France.

If you or your business have legal questions or concerns regarding computer law, privacy, or cybersecurity law matters, contact attorney Jeffrey A. Franklin at Prince Law Offices.

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