Tag Archives: Identity Theft

The Dark Web: What you and your business need to know

ftcDuring a recent meeting at Prince Law Offices, P.C., we were discussing ransomware and the dark web.  The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently posted a helpful description of the dark web and how it may impact you and your business.

You probably have heard about the “dark web” and wondered how it affects businesses – including small businesses. That was one of the topics addressed at an FTC conference earlier this year on identity theft. Recent headlines about high-profile data breaches have added even more urgency to the discussion. So why should the dark web matter to your company? Unfortunately, when a business suffers a breach, the dark web is often the next stop that sensitive data makes after it’s been stolen.

What is the dark web?

It’s a term that describes places on the internet not indexed by traditional search engines. While not every site on the dark web engages in criminal activity, the dark web is where sites that illegally sell consumer data and other black market goods tend to congregate. For identity thieves, the dark web is a sophisticated marketplace providing one-stop shopping to get the tools to commit cybercrime – whether it’s malware kits, stolen account information, or “drop” or “cash-out” services to help monetize their crimes.

What’s the link between the dark web and a business that experiences a breach?

In many instances, data stolen from businesses ends up on the dark web where criminals buy and sell it to commit fraud, get fake identity documents, or fund their criminal organizations.

Dark web offerings often include but aren’t limited to stolen credit cards. Identity thieves also can get compromised bank accounts, health records, credentials, and forged documents. They can even buy entire wallets, complete with credit cards, driver’s licenses, and documents like Social Security numbers and birth certificates – everything a criminal needs to create a new identity.

 

 

How does the dark web impact small businesses?

With so much media focus on data breaches at companies that possess personal information about millions of consumers, some smaller businesses and organizations might think that cybercriminals wouldn’t target them. They would be wrong. First, the reality is that cybercriminals don’t always target a particular business. They often use automated tools to scope out vulnerabilities in any system, including small businesses. Second, as presenters noted at the FTC conference, information available for sale on the dark web is up to 20 times more likely to come from an entity whose breach wasn’t reported in the media. Many of these are smaller retailers, restaurant chains, medical practices, school districts, etc. In fact, most of the breaches the U.S. Secret Service investigates involve small businesses.

There’s another way that data breaches injure us all. Identity theft and fraud have become go-to methods for funding criminal activity in the U.S. and around the world.

And all of this data links back to a real person – your customer – whose life can be adversely affected. Turning their financial affairs into a Gordian Knot is just the start. Some people have had their licenses revoked, been pulled over and arrested, or had criminal warrants issued in their name because of identity theft. When their information is used to commit medical identity theft, even their health could be at risk. Criminals have been known to use stolen data to get medical care or prescription drugs in someone else’s name. When an identity theft victim’s medical records become commingled with a perpetrator’s health information, the consequences could be catastrophic.

What can you and your business do to reduce the risk that information you collect could find its way to the dark web?

It starts with security and continues with your commitment to stick with it. The FTC’s data security page has resources for businesses of any size and sector. If you have customers, employees, or friends who are victims of identity theft, encourage them to report it and get a customized recovery plan at IdentityTheft.gov.

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

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Someone Stole your Phone?

Identity theft can happen to anyone. Last week the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) published an article based on a true story from one if its fraud investigators who had her phone stolen.

She provided tips you can take to protect your digital identity:

Smart Phone:

  • Lock your phone. Use at least a 6-digit passcode on your device, or use the pattern lock or fingerprint scanner. Set the device to lock when not in use. This is especially important if you use a mobile wallet or money transfer apps.
  • Update it and back it up. Back up your device regularly and make sure automatic updates are turned on. Backing up your phone regularly and automatically makes sure that you’ll still have your stuff – if it disappears.
  • Get help finding your phone. Install and turn on Find My iPhone (iOS) or Find My Device (Android). These apps could help you locate your device if you lose it. If your phone is stolen, these apps also let you remotely issue a command to erase your device .
  • Alert your wireless provider if your phone is missing. Make the call as soon as you know your device is missing after you have used the Find My Phone/Device feature. They can permanently or temporarily disable the SIM card to stop someone from using the device on the cell network.

Accounts:

  • Turn on two-factor authentication. That means you’ll give your password and a second way to prove that you’re you. This extra layer of security makes it much harder for thieves to get into your accounts and lock you out. Many providers give several options to authenticate your identity, so be sure you have a backup method (like one-time use codes or a backup email address) in case you don’t have access to your device to receive texts or phone calls.
  • Know which devices have access to your accounts. Many social media sites and email providers, and some phone operating systems, let you view the logins for your devices from the settings menu. You can remove devices from the account, and log out of the site remotely using a computer or another device. That’s handy if ever you lose your phone, tablet, or laptop.
  • Check your log-in and account notifications. Many email and social media accounts can notify you if a new device connects to your account, or if someone tried to change your passwords.
  • When in doubt, change your passwords. If you’ve lost your device, change your passwords. Many of us set our devices to remember passwords – which could mean that someone who gets your phone could get access to your accounts and personal information. So: if you lose your phone, change your email, social media, online banking, shopping, and other passwords right away.

For more tips on what to do to protect yourself from identity thieves, check out ftc.gov/idtheft.

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

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National Consumer Protection Week

Prince Law Offices, P.C. and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) — working with more ftc_logo_430than 100 federal, state and local agencies, consumer groups, and national organizations — will spotlight efforts to protect consumers from fraud, identity theft and other consumer issues during National Consumer Protection Week (NCPW), March 6-12, 2016.

For 18 years, NCPW has been a time to encourage consumers to learn about their rights, and how to make informed buying decisions and report scams, identity theft and unfair business practices. NCPW.gov offers information on a wide range of topics, including credit and debt, online safety, imposter and other scams, identity theft and more.

The site features a blog to update visitors on the latest consumer protection news, including legal actions, new resources and partner-sponsored NCPW events. People also can get free resources and promotional tools for their own consumer education activities, as well as information on filing consumer complaints.

“The FTC and our NCPW partners are on the front lines of consumer protection every day,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “We hope people will take advantage of this week to find resources that will help them fight scams and fraud in their communities all year long.”

During NCPW, partners and hundreds of community groups across the country host events to promote general consumer education or highlight a specific issue, such as a shred-a-thon to reduce the risk of identity theft.

Contact Prince Law Offices, P.C. to lean more about your rights and how to address scams, identity theft and unfair business practices.

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Identity Theft Assistance

Identity theft victims can now go online and get a free, personalized identity theft recovery plan as a result of significant enhancements to the Federal Trade Commission’s IdentityTheft.gov website.3 - homepage

The new one-stop website is integrated with the FTC’s consumer complaint system, allowing consumers who are victims of identity theft to rapidly file a complaint with the FTC and then get a personalized guide to recovery that helps streamline many of the steps involved.
The upgraded site offers an array of easy-to-use tools, that enables identity theft victims to create the documents they need to alert police, the main credit bureaus and the IRS among others.

“Millions of Americans have been victims of identity theft, and until now, there has not been a single site where they can quickly file an official complaint and then get real, personalized help,” said FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez. “The FTC’s new IdentityTheft.gov website empowers consumers to fight back faster and more effectively against identity thieves.”

“Identitytheft.gov is a vital resource as identity theft has reached epidemic levels,” said Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan. “As most Americans know, we live in an age when it’s not a matter of if, but when you will become a victim of identity theft. The FTC’s website is a great place for consumers to go for practical and personalized help to recover from the financial mess created by identity theft.”

“Local law enforcement is often the first place identity theft victims turn for help,” said Mary Gavin, Chief of Police for Falls Church, VA, and an Executive Committee member of the International Association of Chiefs of Police. “IdentityTheft.gov will be a powerful tool to help police assist victims, and the information victims report to the FTC can help law enforcers build cases.”

In 2015, the FTC received over 490,000 consumer complaints about identity theft, representing a 47 percent increase over the prior year, and the Department of Justice estimates that 17.6 million Americans were victims of identity theft in 2014.

When a consumer initiates a response plan through IdentityTheft.gov, the site will automatically generate affidavits and pre-fill letters and forms to be sent to credit bureaus, businesses, police, debt collectors and the IRS. Should a consumer’s recovery run into issues, the site will suggest alternative approaches. Once a consumer completes their initial report on the site, they will receive follow up e-mails and can return to their personalized plan online to continue the recovery process.

IdentityTheft.gov is also available in Spanish at RobodeIdentidad.gov, and allows Spanish-speaking consumers to view the automatically generated letters and other documents in Spanish, but print them in English for sending to the relevant recipients.

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

 

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