Feature Article
Mark Pribish
Your Personal Privacy - Are You in Control?
By Mark Pribish
Vice President and ID Theft Practice Leader

Your personal privacy is not so private anymore based on the use of rapidly changing technology, social media, and laws - which makes all of our information more and more available - and more and more vulnerable.

Currently, there are numerous federal laws (see below) relating to the different types of personal information collected about you:

The fact is, your home and auto insurance, medical insurance, dental insurance, and life insurance information is collected, maintained and (sometimes) sold on a regular basis.

The fact is, your credit bureau record, driving record, employment record, property record, and criminal record is collected, maintained and (sometimes) sold on a regular basis.

The fact is, your purchasing record ranging from video rentals, books you read, prescription drugs, pay-per-view TV, digital cameras, cell phones, and CD burners is collected, maintained and (sometimes) sold on a regular basis.

The fact is, it is very difficult to secure and ensure your privacy when large data mining and marketing companies like Facebook, Google, ChoicePoint, LexisNexis, Acxiom, Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax (sometimes) collect and/or sell pieces of information on us.

Examples of how our personal and private information is used everyday includes law enforcement (surveillance), marketing and sales (data mining), criminals (identity theft), and public information (marriage, divorce, criminal and property records).

However, there is no federal legislation to protect the privacy of the information you (or friends of yours) share online or search engine - so let's take a look at four examples of our personal privacy (of which I have cut and pasted the links to specific news articles for those readers who are interested in more detail) relating to Social Media, Search Engines, Private Messaging, and Digital Books:

  1. Social Media - "Facebook became a trusted brand by presenting itself as a private club of peers. Meanwhile, the site was changing settings and revealing more personal information to more people." Click to continue - http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2010/05/25/ED101DJPE1.DTL
  2. Search Engines - "Imagine being followed in a shopping mall by a marketer who watches what you browse and buy and then recommends products. Your browsing is being followed on almost all Websites by a single company: Google. Only governments have the ability to monitor individuals this expansively." Click to continue - http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2010/05/25/ED101DJPE1.DTL
  3. Privacy Messaging - "Worried your boss may be checking your private messages on state or company-issued communication devices? The Supreme Court strongly suggests buying your own pagers and cell phones." Click to continue - http://www.cnn.com/2010/CRIME/06/17/scotus.privacy/index.html
  4. Digital Books - Over the last few months, the universe of digital books has expanded dramatically, with products like Amazon's Kindle, Google Books, Internet Archive's Text Archive, Barnes and Noble's Nook, and Apple's upcoming iPad poised to revolutionize reading. But while this digital books revolution could make books more accessible than ever before, there are lingering questions about the future of reader privacy, consumers' rights, and potential censorship. http://www.eff.org/wp/digital-books-and-your-rights

In the end, we have little to no control over our own personal and private information - so we should understand that "our expectation of privacy" may have to be limited until our laws catch up with our constantly evolving technology.

In the meantime, we should take special care and caution in how much information we share about ourselves and family members - both online and in social media.

To learn more about these threats and how to protect yourself and your family from Identity Theft, you can read my past newsletters at the Merchants Identity Theft Educational Website at www.idtheftedu.com.


Scam Central

SMiShing (SMS) Scam

There is a plethora of new technology available which helps us receive information instantly these days. If the information is not received by our computers, it may be delivered to our cell or smart phones. The information we receive may vary from emails, twitter tweets, and even bank account alert notifications, just to name a few. The possibilities are endless, and ever-growing.

So you may be wondering exactly what "SMiShing" is? Smishing is a form of criminal activity combining an SMS text message and phishing. Phishing, as you may know, is when someone sends you an email pretending to be a bank or other online service in an attempt to try and get you to click a link and visit a website where you are then asked to disclose personal and sensitive information, all of which is used to defraud you. Smishing, conversely, is when someone sends you a text message, again pretending to be a bank or other service, trying to get you to divulge personal and sensitive information, either by returning the text message or by calling a provided number and speaking with a supposed representative.

How It Works:

You may receive a text message, allegedly from your bank, notifying you that your account has been or will be locked unless you act immediately or that there is some other problem. They will give you a number to call to speak with a representative to resolve the issue. The problem is that this message is not from your bank, and the phone number does not belong to your bank. Instead, it belongs to a clever identity thief, who may have an elaborate automated voice response system.

When you call the number provided, you are asked to give your bank account number and other financial information which is then used by criminals to access and clean out your account(s).

Your Defense:

Here are some helpful hints to consider when you receive a suspicious text message.

  • Do not call any number provided in the text message.
  • Always keep your bank's customer support phone number in your cell or smart phone and call your bank directly to inquire about any suspicious text messages you may receive, allegedly from them.
  • If the text message is not from your bank, be sure to report the message to your bank so they can be aware of the potential attack and alert other bank customers.
  • Do not ever leave personal information on any automated voice message system.

While it may be a nice and convenient way to keep in touch with the rest of the world, your cell or smart phone has now become yet another tool in the hands of criminals trying to steal your identity and your money.

If you believe your identity has been stolen, call 866.SMART68 today.