Protect Yourself Against Mail Fraud

Picture 5The reality is that unsecured, curbside mailboxes are prime targets for people who are intent on committing the crime of identity theft. Although I would suggest to stop using the mail to send and receive identity documents, this is not always possible. Therefore, here are alternative suggestions:

Lock Box. Install a locking mailbox that can be accessed only by you. These generally have a mail slot that allows the postal service to put mail into the box. Many newer neighborhoods already have some form of locking mailboxes.
P.O. Box. If a locking mailbox is not possible, get a P.O. box at your local post office and have sensitive documents sent there. It is a little bit more work, but gives you much more privacy.
In Person. When mailing sensitive documents, walk them into the post office and hand them to a postal worker. If it is after hours, drop the mail through an internal slot in the building. If there is no internal mailing slot, mail it the following day. This cuts out the most vulnerable stages of mailing.
UPS/FedEx. Have identity documents sent by UPS or FedEx and make sure that you require a signature for delivery. This makes the information harder to steal and you can track its location at anytime, which will alert you if the document isn’t delivered in a timely manner or is diverted somewhere else.
Send Checks to the Bank. Have sensitive documents (like new checks or credit cards) sent to your bank rather than to your home address. Pick them up there.
Watch for Cards. When new credit cards are coming through the mail, watch for them and call the credit card company if they don’t arrive in 7 to 10 days.
Quick Retrieval. If you are unable to install a locking mailbox and don’t have access to P.O. boxes, retrieve any mail within an hour or two of delivery. This lowers the exposure time of your mail.

According to the Identity Fraud Survey Report by Javelin Strategy & Research, 8% of all known identity theft is committed by mail fraud and the misuse can last for up to 175 days. But mail fraud is very difficult to catch, which means that the numbers are probably significantly higher. Just by protecting your mail against Identity Theft you can reduce your chances of becoming a victim by at least 8%.

John Sileo became America’s leading Identity Theft Speaker & Expert after he lost his business and more than $300,000 to identity theft and data breach. His clients include the Department of Defense, Pfizer and the FDIC.  To learn more about having him speak at your next meeting or conference, contact him by [intlink id=”15″ type=”page” anchor=”Contact John Sileo”]email[/intlink] or on 800.258.8076.

Uncovering Business Identity Theft

While the majority of identity theft schemes prey upon individuals, small-businesses and organizations are increasingly becoming targets. Business identity theft is a serious threat, but it mostly flies under the radar simply because companies are embarrassed to discuss.

Although most companies are protected by copyright, patent and trademark laws, smaller companies lack the higher IT security measures that large companies have. According to recent studies by Javelin Strategy & Research this makes them 25% more likely to be victims of business identity theft over larger businesses.  Not only do small businesses and business owners typically have larger lines of credit open than an individual, but they are unlikely to detect the fraud for six to eight months making them a prime target.

Business Identity has not been completely defined yet, but it definitely has been stolen. California has become the leader in offering identity rights to organizations and in 2006 they expanded the definition of ‘person’ in identity theft laws to include associations, organizations, partnerships, businesses, trusts, companies, and corporations. These types of amended laws have proved to deter business identity theft and provide greater assistance to those companies that have been hit.

Most commonly criminals assume the name of a business, rent out office space in the same building and order everything from corporate credit cards to hundreds of computers and equipment. In one instance the culprit billed a law firm for $70,000 in purchased equipment, hired a moving truck and disappeared from the building before the fraud was ever detected.  This has been not only costly, but timely. If businesses had the same protection as individuals this would have been quickly resolved and the victims would have moved on. Credit card companies have also followed suit and began to remove the distinction between business identity theft and individual identity theft.

The lack of publicity on this type of Identity theft is solely due to a lack of reporting by companies. Businesses are required by federal law to notify consumers who’s personal information has been hijacked, but not if their businesses identity has been stolen. In order to save face, most business owners would rather not own up to such a breach to avoid looking like the pawn in a criminals scheme. Without incentives and assistance to a company who has experienced this type of transgression there is little reason for them to come forward.

Until businesses and their owners come forward to help uncover business identity theft there will be less laws in place to deter criminals and small businesses will remain vulnerable.

For more information on this issue check out BusinessWeek.

John Sileo provides identity theft training to human resource departments and organizations around the country. His clients include the Department of Defense, Pfizer and the FDIC. To learn more about having him speak at your next meeting or conference, contact him by email or on 800.258.8076.

Biometric Identity Theft: Stolen Fingerprints

Identity Theft is a huge and growing problem. According to the recent 2009 Identity Theft Fraud report by Javelin Strategy & Research, victims increased 22% in 2008 to 9.9 million. When businesses are involved, the companies face billions of dollars in theft, millions of dollars in fines and, perhaps most important, the loss of customer trust.

The large impact that identity theft has on individuals lives and corporations’ bottom lines has made inexpensive biometrics look attractive for authenticating employees, customers, citizens, students and any other people we want to recognize. The most recent debate is on whether the pros outweigh the cons. (To see some of the materials that influenced this article, please visit George Tillmann’s excellent article in Computerworld).

fingerprintBiometrics uses physical characteristics, such as fingerprints, DNA, or retinal patterns to positively verify individuals. These biological identifiers are electronically converted to a string of ones and zeros and stored on file in the authenticator database.

[intlink id=”899″ type=”post”]Biometric Statistics[/intlink]

The downside or weakness of biometrics is that the risk of data breach remains relatively the same. Just as a credit card number can be stolen, the numbers that make up your biometrics and are stored in a database can be stolen.  It may take longer for thieves to understand how to use these new pieces of information, but they will eventually be used.

Ultimately, this could be more dangerous than having your ATM PIN, credit card number, or Social Security Number stolen, and it will take longer to clear up.  In a worst-case-scenario, someone inside of the biometric database company could attach their fingerprint to your record — and suddenly they are you. The reverse is also true, where they put your fingerprint in their profile so that if they are convicted of a crime, the proof of criminality is attached to your finger.

What will stop thieves from electronically sending your stolen fingerprints to your bank to confirm that you really do want to clean out your bank account through an ATM in Islamabad? Fingerprints, when stored in a database, are nothing more than long strings of numbers. What will you do when your digitized fingerprints wind up on a government No-Fly list? If you think it takes forever to board a plane now, wait until every law enforcement agency in the free world has your fingerprints on file as a suspected thief or, worse, a terrorist.

The reality is that biometrics could be a great alternative to securing one’s identity – and they are quickly becoming a part of every day identification.  But we can’t go forward into the new world of biometrics thinking that it solves all of our problems. Like the “security codes” on the back of our credit cards, like the two forms of authentication required for most banks, like wireless encryption standards – thieves eventually find work-arounds. And so too will they work around biometrics. If we implement biometrics without doing our due diligence on protecting the identity, we are doomed to repeat history — and our thumbprint will become just another Social Security Number.

John Sileo became America’s leading Identity Theft Speaker & Expert after he lost his business and more than $300,000 to identity theft and data breach. His clients include the Department of Defense, Pfizer and the FDIC. Contact John directly on 800.258.8076.

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Meeting Planning Guide – 5 Ways to Create an Extraordinary Experience

meeting-planning-guideHaving a great meeting planning guide can be a great time saver when attempting to plan any sort of meeting/conference.

Meeting planners have more on their plates at one time than just about any profession I’ve experienced. Who else spends months anticipating every minute detail leading up to an event only to find out that their work has just begun? And to discover that many of the rules have changed mid-course?

Putting together a successful meeting can be a stressful endeavor, which is why I have put together a “best practices” meeting planning guide, with 5 important tips for planning an “out of this world” meeting. These tips are strategic in nature – how to move from organizing speakers to hiring speakers that rock.

This guide will help you find new and creative ways to engage your audience, and provide you tips for creating a conference/meeting participants will never forget.

Best of all, I’m giving it away absolutely FREE! (Those of you have already been in my audience know that there is no such thing as FREE! There is always a catch, always a price when someone is advertising free goods. Sorry to make a teaching point here, but it’s my job. In this case, you are giving away your name and email address in exchange for the white paper. Hopefully your attendees think about this type of information leakage when they sign up for FREE offers.) If you find the meeting planning guide useful, please leave a comment about it here at my blog!

Visit to request your free (almost) meeting planning guide today!

I only ask that if you download the meeting planning guide and find it useful that you leave a comment here at my blog!

Thanks and good luck planning your upcoming meeting!