Postal Mail Theft… a society gone wrong!

Let’s call it what it is – a society gone wrong! Never before in my life have I been faced with—on such a regular basis—the kind of diminished moral turpitude as now faces us on a daily basis. If you put out a Google alert for trending issues on identity theft, fraud and/or theft, your head will spin at the numbers of articles that pop up.

Consider the recent rash of break-ins experienced by the Anthem communities where mailboxes have been targeted in the recent past. Authorities have best assessed the situation as a team of thieves who have driven through the clustered communities, and at some point, found themselves “safe” enough to pry the back from the mailboxes – availing themselves to the private information of every mail recipient. From what investigators have been able to determine, the thieves were after specific items, such as balance transfer checks regularly sent by credit card companies, and any form of government documents.

Generally, the materials stolen in this kind of situation is sold to third parties so it takes several weeks for any indication of identity theft to surface. We must act early and in proactive concert with each other… for each other! If you see any suspicious activity in your communities, report it right away, using the Postal number 1-877-876-2455 and select option 3.

I hope you have enjoyed this article… my focus on Identity Theft this month is to bring a serious focus on just how cautious you must be: unfortunately, just short of being paranoid! I want the articles to impress upon my readers how easy it is for almost anyone to fall victim to these predators. For more stories, tips, resources, etc. click HERE.

I also want to reiterate it you don’t have some sort of identity theft protection, the financial devastation could be huge. As part of my insurance portfolio, I do offer an Identity Theft Protection Plan through my professional relationship with Legal Shield. If you would like to know more about this plan, I invite you to review my website by clicking HERE. You can make your purchase right from the website, or call me at 480 720 3600 to discuss any questions you may have about the product and services.

Making MORE happen for my insurance clients…

Jan Vitale

Arizona Independent Insurance Agent
Proudly serving her clients and her industry for 30+ years
http://www.lifetimeinvestmentsllc.com/
JanVitale@lifetimeinvestmentsllc.com
http://www.JanVitale.legalshieldassociate.com

Arizona Ranks as High Identity Theft State

Many of my clients ask, “Why is it that identity theft complaints are higher in Arizona than most other states in the nation?”

Because an identity theft insurance product is included in my portfolio of coverages, I am constantly in training and researching just how Arizona communities are impacted. You might be interested to know a recent report represents a 47% increase last year – nationwide – of complaints filed by consumers with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) about identity theft. One resource, The Consumer Sentinel Network databook, released in March, 2016 shows Arizona in a not so favorable light… number 14 in the nation for identity theft complaints, which made me wonder just how companies can manage serious data breaches.

My heartfelt belief is that it has something to do with being such a transient state, where we transfer not only furniture and valuables but every conceivable piece of personal information possible to new service providers: doctors, dentists, homes, insurance, etc. Each time we establish a new professional relationship, we have to entrust another collective of service providers with family information we have to “hope” will be safe and secure.

Identity Theft Reality

I also found our reality is… although the headlines shout out the big data problems with large retailers, it is the less than secure passwords, phishing emails to which we respond, and the amount of social media sharing in which we engage that increases our risk. It seems most of us consider identity theft primarily runs to stolen credit card numbers, but that actually only accounted for about 25% of the theft in 2015. It is highly likely then since we are so misinformed, we tend to overlook the reality that most identity theft is not about access to our money! People want taxpayer identity, medical information, and credentials… such as driver’s license, passport, employee and student ID’s.

Convenience Tradeoff Equals Increased Risk

Each layer of convenience brings another layer of risk; if you consider nothing more than the risk coincident with filing your taxes online… another convenience provided consumers, which we took to without question. And now we pay the price with risk and worries of identity theft.

No Guarantees, But Positive Steps

Identity TheftJust how do we guard against identity theft and protect our financial well-being? Unfortunately, there are no guarantees remaining, what with the technology that does as much to support hackers and identity thieves as there is the consumer, but being fiscally responsible and protecting yourself is at least a strong deterrent. Most are simple steps we should be taking, anyway, but the added protection makes doing them worth not losing sleep over!

  1. Monthly Statements:     Review them, looking for any unfamiliar charges, which you immediately draw to the attention of your financial service provider.
  2. Free annual credit report:   Order them from TransUnion, Equifax and Experian. Each is required to provide you one free credit report annually. Review the reports for accuracy relative to names, addresses and other inaccurate information you may find there; be very proactive in having the information corrected.
  3. Fraud alerts:   Don’t be afraid to use them. Keep the phone numbers for your financial institutions close at hand and dial those numbers the instant you feel anything is amiss.
  4. Invest in a shredder:   Anything that has your personal information in print, which you do not retain in a secure location needs to be shredded. If you have a preference for using a third party service to shred your materials, complete your due diligence to ensure they have no history of data breaches.
  5. Deter tech savvy thieves:    Remember that digital data leaves a footprint on any computer system you may use; deleting the information is never the best course of action because most of it can be recovered from a formatted drive. Invest in services or software that allows you to wipe hard drives, etc. clean.
  6. There is no place like home for your Social Security card:  Unless you need to show a valid copy of your card, consider the most secure possible place to house it with other personal paperwork and information that should only be provided for high security purposes. For the most part, very few reputable businesses have need of this private information.
  7. Don’t fall for “phishers:” Far too many people are getting caught in the trap of receiving emails that admonish them their accounts are going to be frozen. I am so grateful I’m on the “net” enough to know when one of these is a farce… I know the IRS, my bank and Paypal never connect with me like this, so I delete the emails, and if I have time, have begun reporting them to appropriate authorities.

This month is a focus on Identity Theft… facts, stories and solutions.  Enjoy each one!
I hope they make you stop and think… and reconsider just how cautious you must be: unfortunately, just short of being paranoid! What I want to effect with the Identity Theft articles is to impress upon my readers how easy it is for almost anyone to fall victim to these predators.

I also want to reiterate it you don’t have some sort of identity theft protection, the financial devastation could be huge. If you would like to know more about an Identity Theft plan, I invite you to review my website by clicking HERE. You can make your purchase right from the website, or call me at 480 720 3600 to discuss any questions you may have about the product and services.
Jan

Independent Insurance Agent
Proudly serving her clients, her community, and her industry for 30+ years
http://www.lifetimeinvestmentsllc.com/
JanVitale@lifetimeinvestmentsllc.com

NJ Man Scams Arizona Insurance Clients

You know, I have worked so hard over the past three decades to provide the best in product, price, AND customer service to insurance clients. The hours have been long, the commitment strong, and as an Arizona independent insurance agent, I found many of my rewards not financial, but highly rewarded by knowing I participated by keeping my industry clean of identity theft and fraud… and our Arizona communities served with integrity and credibility.

Arizona Insurance Agent, fraud and identity theftYou can well imagine my absolute shock when I recently read about a New Jersy native residing in Arizona, who had forged an insurance license and took close to half a million dollars in payments for his personal use. The 43-year old, who never issued policies to the people from whom he took the money, is now wanted on theft and fraud charges… 92 criminal counts as a matter of fact! Fraud schemes, identity theft and theft… his charges run the gamut, and begin in 2005 when he first forged his name on the Arizona insurance license of another agent having the same last name. His actions first came to light in 2013 when the merging of two companies raised issue during a routine background check. The Arizona state insurance fraud investigators unraveled a story that sounded more like a dark fiction novel… the tale of setting up fraudulent bank accounts and diverting premium payments from commercial environmental companies throughout the country.

In Arizona… just shaking my head!  Does the “evil” mind astound you?  I hope you have enjoyed this article; that it has made you think and reconsider just how cautious you must be. What I want to effect with the Identity Theft articles is to show you  how easy it is for almost anyone to fall victim to these predators, and to reiterate if you don’t have some sort of identity theft protection, the financial devastation could be huge.

As part of my insurance portfolio, I do offer an Identity Theft Protection Plan through my professional relationship with Legal Shield. If you would like to know more about this plan, I invite you to review my website by clicking HERE. You can make your purchase right from the website, or call me at 480 720 3600 to discuss any questions you may have about the product and services.

And… if you want more Identity Theft reading, just click HERE.

Making MORE happen for my insurance clients…

Jan Vitale

Arizona Independent Insurance Agent
Proudly serving her clients and her industry for 30+ years
http://www.lifetimeinvestmentsllc.com/
JanVitale@lifetimeinvestmentsllc.com
http://www.JanVitale.legalshieldassociate.com

Technology and Identity Theft

You just never know when life as we know it adds to our vulnerability and being at risk for identity theft. Living in Arizona puts us high up on the ladder… the state is #9 in the nation, which, if you want to look more closely at the numbers, means that for every 100,000 people in the state, on average 96 of them file complaints with the Federal Trade Commission every year. This number is an increase of close to 26% over the past ten years.

We are constantly lectured about the importance of personal privacy, hearing the message that part of the problem is the fundamental differences in today’s definition of identity theft… compared to that of yester-year, which was not all that long ago. Virtually every consumer interaction calls for one or all pieces of our personal information: Social Security numbers, addresses, driver’s license number, and credit card numbers… not to mention collectors of social media profiles, passwords, usernames and our browsing history. In my latest research, I discovered that about 7% of US Citizens over age 16 were victims of some form of identity theft of one of the four top areas:

  1. Fraudulent government documents.
  2. Credit card fraud.
  3. Employment-related fraud.
  4. Phone or utilities fraud.

Do we have to buy into the idea it is just a trade-off for using technology, or can we look for providers taking a stand and developing a counter-technology, such as was created by Tesla cars, which allows car owners to lock down information, for example, when vehicles are left for a given time with a valet—to protect consumers from accessibility to those with intent to do harm with personal data?

Consider the story of James, a young college student whose only means of transportation was the bicycle he locked up with those of his roommates on their condo veranda. The bikes were locked on a nightly basis… two with steel u-locks and the other with a cable chain.

“I went indoors just to answer a phone call, and came out several minutes later to find that with a $15 pair of bolt cutters, some thief cut the cable chained bike from the rack and disappeared into the night… a few days later, the bike shows up for sale in a pawn shop just blocks from my home! Later, I was visiting with one of my college friends about the bike, and heard another  theft story of  my friend, Nick, having been hacked in an important online account.”

Identity Theft and the low-hanging fruitNick looked pretty down in the mouth himself and said, “Yeah, when it comes to theft, in reality, you are only protected by other, easier victims. We get snagged because we are like the low-hanging fruit. Your bike got taken because it was the easiest to cut through; my account was easier to hack because I hadn’t implemented more ways to make myself less vulnerable online.”

“The next half hour or so Nick and I brainstormed how to make ourselves less vulnerable… both from physical theft, which constituted more difficult to breach locks and for both of us… online, the following ideas we would implement.”

  1. Using only service providers who require multi-factored authentication, which means two or more pieces of evidence are required such as ATM’s requiring a physical card and a not-so-easy to break PIN code. Smart guys we are… we researched and found we could at least count on Apple and Twitter to make sure the companies are not sources of direct messages from bot “imposters.”
  2. We also looked around for newer IPhones and mobile banking accounts that now use fingerprints instead of passwords. Word on the street has it that fingerprints can be faked, but it takes a lot more knowledge and effort, so it removes the user from the low-hanging fruit category. What we did find,  however, was just how much more vulnerable cell phones are to being hacked, so we are each reconsidering whether the convenience is worth the risk.
  3. Using multiple passwords and changing frequently. Our little lunch chat surfaced the fact we both had many accounts where we had used the same password for years… yep! Years! We challenged each other to up-level our security and exert a little more effort to create passwords that are a mix of upper/lower case letters, numbers and special characters.
  4. College kids are on a tight budget – right! We knew we couldn’t afford the newest, latest and greatest virus software so we decided the next challenge was to find one that was more affordable, yet highly rated in terms of protection.
  5. One big ah-ha moment was the reality that we could easily add layers of protection by using multiple emails to fragment any tracking of our identity. Just think about how much easier it is for a hacker to find all our juicy information in one spot – because WE thought it more convenient for ourselves; The thieves will be deterred at least a bit when we get our identity was all “mixed up” and across several email servers!

So, Jan, thanks for letting me have my say, and share my experience. Tell your readers to “Always remember the tree of identity theft begins with the low-hanging fruit for thieves.”

~ James N., Tempe, AZ

I hope you have enjoyed this article; that it has made you think and reconsider just how cautious you must be: unfortunately, just short of being paranoid!  What I want to effect with the Identity Theft articles in the newsletter is to impress upon my readers how easy it is for almost anyone to fall victim to these predators.
I also want to reiterate it you don’t have some sort of identity theft protection, the financial devastation could be huge. As part of my insurance portfolio, I do offer an Identity Theft Protection Plan through my professional relationship with Legal Shield. If you would like to know more about this plan, I invite you to review my website: https://www.legalshield.com/hub/janvitale.
You can make your purchase right from the website, or call me at 480 720 3600 to discuss any questions you may have about the product and services.
Jan