Feature Article
Mark Pribish
National Cyber Security Awareness Month Promotes Cyber Education to Consumers and Businesses
By Mark Pribish
Vice President and ID Theft Practice Leader

National Cyber Security Awareness Month (NCSAM) is recognized every year in the month of October by the Department of Homeland Security (see the website here) to help educate businesses and consumers on protecting their digital lives.

That said, every consumer needs to understand that cyber security and ID Theft prevention cannot be guaranteed by any one organization or business - including those businesses with national advertisements on "how we do more to help protect your identity" by providing a false sense of security with incomplete information.

In fact, the growing level of cyber threats and ID Theft on businesses and consumers continues as businesses in general and financial institutions in particular are challenged by cyber-attacks reflected in the following headline news:

October 15 Credit Union Times article, Combating Today's Relentless Cyber Attacks, (see the article here) where "criminals probe for vulnerabilities in operating systems, web browsers and other third-party applications in order to make money."

October 16 CBS News Money Watch article, NH AG: bank breach could affect 43,750. TD Bank's data breach of 260,000 customers could affect 43,750 customers in New Hampshire.

October 12 Reuters news article (see the article here) on how cyber-attacks against Wells Fargo were "pretty significant" and how six big U.S. banks in addition to Wells Fargo including Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, U.S. Bank, and PNC had their websites hacked which prevented customers from logging in to personal or business accounts.

Finally, the September 25 MSNBC Security news article on how seven rent-to-own companies secretly installed software on rented computers collected information, took pictures of consumers in their homes, and tracked consumers’ locations (see the article here).

And if the these headlines were not enough, how about the October 12 New York Times article (see the article here) titled "Panetta Warns of Dire Threat of Cyber Attack on U.S.," there are key words referenced, including cybercrime, cyber terrorism, and cyber warfare.

Specifically, the NY Times article highlights two thoughts including how the United States is vulnerable to a "Cyber Pearl Harbor," where digital attackers are intent on causing "panic, destruction and loss of life" and have already breached highly sensitive infrastructure including computers that run chemical, electric, and water systems.

The article also discusses how "Americans are more connected to each other and to people around the world than ever before" where many of us depend on the Internet and various digital tools for activities from shopping at home to banking on mobile devices to sharing information with friends across the globe.

Based on the above, every consumer should be constantly aware of new cyber threats and trends. This awareness and education - which is the mission of National Cyber Security Awareness Month - can be supported by educational websites such as:

To conclude, consumers need to be vigilant in their efforts to increase their consumer risk management and awareness and be proactive in protecting their personal information.

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

You May Lose by Winning

What a joy! You have just received a phone call indicating that you have won a lottery or sweepstakes. What is the grand prize you ask? How about $2 million dollars and a Mercedes Benz! Talk about hitting the jackpot. All you have to do is pay a fee to collect your prize.

Hold on a second. You did not enter a contest or sweepstakes, or play the lottery. How could you possibly have won a contest you did not enter? The answer is simple: the phone call is a scam, and you did not win anything.

How It Works:

This is not a new scam, but it seems to be rearing its ugly head once more, sometimes with slight variations in theme. The outcome, however, is always the same.

According to an article on the Better Business Bureau's website (please see the article here), this new implementation of the scam seems to be originating from area code "876", and usually has someone on the other end speaking with an accent, possibly Jamaican. Variations on this scam include the caller claiming to be a representative of the BBB itself, but do not fall for it.

These scammers are calling people and telling them that they have won a contest, lottery, or sweepstakes. They have a grand prize, but must pay an upfront fee in order to collect the prize. Once you pay the fee, by either wiring money or divulging your credit card information, you are to be sent the prize. In reality, you just lost the money, and you may now be at risk of identity theft.

Your Defense:

Informed readers should be well aware of how to treat this scam by now. Hang up the phone! Do not give the caller any financial or personal information. Do not be afraid to ask for details on how you supposedly entered this contest. Get as much information as you can from the caller. Then jot down the phone number and report the call to your local authorities. Any information you provide may be able to help spread the word to other consumers before someone falls victim to this scam.

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