Marriott Data Breach: 500 Million Accounts Compromised

If you have stayed at one of Marriott’s Starwood hotels in the past few years, chances are you have been affected by a massive data breach that potentially exposed your personal data along with about 500 million other people. Your name, phone numbers, email addresses, passport number, date of birth, and potentially credit card numbers and expiration dates are at risk.

Marriott said in the coming weeks they will start reaching out to affected guests and has set up a website with information about the breach.

For those of you concerned about whether your information was stolen, here are a few steps you can take to protect yourself:

Change your passwords

We hear all the time about stupid things people do when it comes to creating passwords; the most commonly used passwords in the United States for the past several years include “123456”, “password” and some variation like “password1234”. People are easily tricked into giving away their passwords to the likes of Jimmy Kimmel or Ellen to our amusement. Before Sony was breached, they infamously kept their passwords in a file called “Passwords”!

The bottom line is it is nearly impossible to effectively create and remember all the passwords we need to function in our daily lives. It seems there are two ways people handle this. They continue to use the same (usually poor) passwords over and over or they do what I highly recommend and use some sort of password manager program. 

Enable two-step logins

Two-step logins are when two separate passcodes are required to log in to one of your online accounts. One of the most common and popular forms is called text verification, and I’m sure you’ve already experienced it. That’s where you log in to your online account with your regular username and password and then a secondary passcode is sent to your phone by text or even better, through an App like Google Authenticator. Without that second passcode, no one gets into the account.

Set up account alerts 

To monitor accounts quickly and conveniently, sign up for automatic account alerts when any transaction occurs on your account. If you spend even a dollar at a store, you receive an email or text notifying you of the purchase. If you receive an email for an amount you didn’t spend – bingo – you’re probably a victim of fraud.

MOST IMPORTANTLY, FREEZE YOUR CREDIT.

Some websites and cybersecurity experts will tell you to simply place a fraud alert on your three credit profiles. I am telling you that this isn’t strong enough to protect your credit. Freezing your credit puts a password on your credit profile, so that criminals can’t apply for credit in your name (unless they steal your password too). Here are the credit freeze websites and phone numbers for each bureau.

Equifax Credit Freeze
P.O. Box 105788 Atlanta, Georgia 30348
Toll-Free: 1.800.685.1111

TransUnion Credit Freeze
Fraud Victim Assistance Department P.O. Box 6790 Fullerton, CA 92834
Toll-Free: 1.888.909.8872

Experian Credit Freeze
P.O. Box 9554 Allen, TX 75013
Toll-Free: 1.888.397.3742

Equifax is being overwhelmed by requests, so be patient and keep trying. Even if it doesn’t happen today, you need to Freeze Your Credit!

12th Day: Holiday Security Tips All Wrapped up Together

Would you like to give the people you care about some peace on earth during this holiday season? Take a few minutes to pass on our 12 privacy tips that will help them protect their identities, social media, shopping and celebrating over the coming weeks. The more people that take the steps we’ve outlined in the 12 Days of Christmas, the safer we all become, collectively.

Have a wonderful holiday season, regardless of which tradition you celebrate. Now sing (and click) along with us one more time.  

On the 12th Day of Christmas, the experts gave to me: 

12 Happy Holidays,

11 Private Emails,

10 Trusted Charities

9 Protected Packages

8 Scam Detectors

7 Fraud Alerts

6 Safe Celebrations

Fiiiiiiiiiiive Facebook Fixes

4 Pay Solutions

3 Stymied Hackers

2 Shopping Tips

And the Keys to Protect My Privacy

John Sileo is an an award-winning author and keynote speaker on identity theft, internet privacy, fraud training & technology defense. John specializes in making security entertaining, so that it works. John is CEO of The Sileo Group, whose clients include the Pentagon, Visa, Homeland Security & Pfizer. John’s body of work includes appearances on 60 Minutes, Rachael Ray, Anderson Cooper & Fox Business. Contact him directly on 800.258.8076.

11th Day: Is that Holiday Email Really a Lump of Coal?

Holiday Security Tips: On the eleventh day of Christmas, the experts gave to me, 11 private emails

During the holidays, we tend to spend more time online, searching for the perfect gift, swapping emails with friends, viewing festive holiday pictures, jokes and so on.  Cybercriminals know this and guess what?  They’re online more, too—looking for ways to lure you into scams to ruin your holidays and steal valuable information.   Here are just a few email scams to watch for:

Holiday e-card scams: Each year, more and more people are going the environmentally friendly and cost-effective route by sending holiday e-cards.  Cybercriminals, looking to install malicious software on your computer, may join in the fun and send you an e-card with an attachment to open.

Solution:  Resist your curiosity to see that adorable elf dance; only open attachments from trusted friends and family. If you don’t recognize the sender, don’t open the e-card. 

Holiday-related search term scams: We all like to be a bit more festive at the holidays, so we look for winter wonderland screensavers or our favorite carol for a ringtone.  However, these items may be disguised malware or spyware and you won’t feel so festive after it compromises and exposes the data on your computer.

Solution:  Make sure that you have protected your computer with automatically updated anti-virus software and operating system updates. As a rule of thumb, if you aren’t paying cash for a download, you might be paying by giving away your free information.

Fake invoice scams: Cybercriminals know that we tend to do a lot of holiday shopping online or through catalogs.  To try to trick you into giving credit card details or other valuable information, the criminals will send fake notices, either about delivery status or phony invoices that appear to be from legitimate companies (UPS, FedEx, USPS).  They might say they need to credit your account or you need to fill out a form in order to receive the package.  When you comply, your information and/or your computer may be compromised.

Solution:  Log onto the website of the company supposedly contacting you to track your packages or get a phone number to call and check on the action requested.

If you must peek inside a package, choose the shiny one underneath your Christmas tree.  Just don’t open those scary email links! On the twelfth day of Christmas…

To review our tips from previous days, click here.

John Sileo is an an award-winning author and keynote speaker on identity theft, internet privacy, fraud training & technology defense. John specializes in making security entertaining, so that it works. John is CEO of The Sileo Group, whose clients include the Pentagon, Visa, Homeland Security & Pfizer. John’s body of work includes appearances on 60 Minutes, Rachael Ray, Anderson Cooper & Fox Business. Contact him directly on 800.258.8076.

10th Day: Beware the Phony Santa Claus Comin’ to Town

Holiday Security Tips: On the tenth day of Christmas, the experts gave to me, 10 trusted charities

Because you tend to be more giving throughout the holidays, scammers target you during this time of year. Whether they are asking for a donation to a charity, promising free iPads, claiming to be a friend in need, or are asking you to click on something outrageous or out of character, don’t fall for it.

Solution: Keep your eyes open for these common holiday scams

  • Phishing. Thieves, or hackers as they are more commonly known, will send emails that look like they are legitimately sent from a charitable organization when in real-life these are fake web sites that are designed to steal credit card information, donations and your identity. To donate, call or visit the website of a reputable charitable organization.
  • Click Jacking. Click Jacking is a type of social spam. After taking over a friend’s Facebook account, the spammer posts a message on your friend’s Facebook or Twitter page offering free gifts or recommending you donate. Since it looks like a friend has endorsed the post, it’s much easier to fall for the scam. If it’s not believable or out of character, don’t click, as it’s likely to install Malware on your system. 
  • Charity or Friends-in-Distress Scams. Never send money (via check, cash or electronically) based solely on a wall post, email or phone call. Only donate to known charities and only when you have initiated the gift. Respond to wall posts, emails or phone calls for charity by contacting the charity on a reputable phone number or website.

The song tells you that you’d better not pout and better not cry; you won’t have to do either if you just watch out! On the eleventh day of Christmas…

To review our tips from previous days, click here.

John Sileo is an an award-winning author and keynote speaker on identity theft, internet privacy, fraud training & technology defense. John specializes in making security entertaining, so that it works. John is CEO of The Sileo Group, whose clients include the Pentagon, Visa, Homeland Security & Pfizer. John’s body of work includes appearances on 60 Minutes, Rachael Ray, Anderson Cooper & Fox Business. Contact him directly on 800.258.8076.