Feature Article
Mark Pribish
Identity Theft Trends You Need to Know in 2012
By Mark Pribish
Vice President and ID Theft Practice Leader

Nearly five years ago, I wrote an article published in the Arizona Bankers Magazine on how "identity theft has become so lucrative that criminals have turned away from individual targets and are focused on obtaining complete files of personal information from business entities."

The world of technology in general, and identity theft in particular, is constantly changing. This constant change is attracting more cybercriminals (aka identity thieves) than ever who are targeting new opportunities including:

  • Social Media - like Facebook, LinkedIn and Tumblr, where most of us are making it easier for identity thieves to steal our personal and professional information by sharing too much information. As cybercriminals learn more about social media, there will be an increase in social media abuse including malware targeting these and other social networking sites.
  • The Insider Threat - where current and former employees (including those involved in reorganizations to negative reviews), current and former vendors (ranging from information technology to cleaning crews) and current and former customers (especially those with an entitlement issue like: "You owe me!") have access to employee and customer information.
  • Organized Crime - has created an entirely new profit center by stealing your Personally Identifiable Information (PII) including your social security number, driver's license number, health insurance number, tax information, utilities information, phone information and then selling it to the highest bidder or using it to steal your money directly.
  • Viruses and Spyware - continues to be an emerging online threat ranging from your personal and workplace computers to mobile device hacking.
  • Credit and Debit Card Skimming - continues to be a risk when using your credit/debit card at a tampered gas station pump; paying your grocery bill at a tampered grocery store credit/debit card terminal; handing your credit/debit card to a waiter using a skimming device to swipe your card; or even your own bank's ATM.
  • ID Theft and the Holidays - according to John Iannarelli, Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Arizona "Data breach and hacking attempts to steal account information are most likely to occur over the weekend and holidays (like December 25th) when most businesses (e.g. financial institutions) are closed." Iannarelli was quick to state that "In fact, Christmas day is the single biggest day for hackers to go after the computer servers of businesses."

So here are some things to look for as we enter 2012:

Cybercriminals accessing your e-mail account and sending phishing spam from your email account to all of your contacts.

Identity thieves stealing your Social Security number to open bank, credit card, cell phone and utility accounts without your knowledge.

Cybercriminals stealing your online bank username and password to steal money from your checking/savings accounts.

On a more positive note, I would like to wish everyone the Happiest of Holidays and a Happy New Year.

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

Fake Driver's License Renewal Websites

In the not-too-distant past, everyone had to renew their driver's license every few years, or whenever they changed addresses. As we all know, a visit to the DMV is normally not a pleasant experience with the long lines and waits. In the past decade, however, changes to laws provided for longer durations of driver's license expiration dates. In many cases, the new expiration dates are at one's 65th birthday! Unless you move every few years, or even every decade or so, one would not have to visit the DMV for quite some time.

Knowing the hassle involved in the renewal process, being able to renew one's license online for a simple change of address would be a great convenience. In New Hampshire, that is exactly the convenience many thought they were getting. The only issue with the DMV website they were using is that it was fake.

How It Works:

Using a search engine to look up the state DMV website, you may see several links that appear to represent your motor vehicle department. Once at the site, you identify yourself, maybe create an account, enter your information, or even pay for your license renewal with your credit card. The only problem is, your license is not renewed, and you have just exposed your personally identifiable information to a fake website hosted by scammers.

Your Defense:

The best way to avoid a fraudulent site is ensure that you visit the official website of the organization you are looking for. As convenient as the Internet may be, caution must be taken when using a search engine to find the legitimate business or government website. Scammers go to great lengths to convince an unsuspecting user that the site their visiting is official. Some are very good at imitating legitimate websites, often using official graphics, logos and the same colors. If you have questions about the legitimacy of the website you are on, do not enter any private information and exit the site as quickly as possible. Contact your local DMV by phone to ensure you have the correct web address for their site.

In the future, when and if you have an expiring driver's license, you will be sent a notice from the DMV via postal mail. This notice should include the valid URL for their website if online services are available to you.

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