Posts tagged ‘Phishing’

The Ohio Department of Insurance has confirmed an on-going scam targeting insurance policyholders. According to the ODI, the scam is currently targeted primarily at auto policies. In this scam, the caller alleges that “there was a problem with your insurance payment” and asks for confidential information such as bank account numbers, birthdates, SSNs, etc. The call often includes a threat that “your coverage will lapse” if the customer does not comply.

You can read the full ODI press release at

Insurance companies do sometimes ask for confidential information such as SSNs and birthdates in the normal course of business. However, it would be highly unusual for the insurance carrier to contact the customer directly or to do so other than in writing. If you receive a call that strikes you as suspicious, hang up and call the number printed on your last policy statement. If the call was legitimate, the customer service representative will be able to look up your account and confirm it.

Be very cautious about handing out your personal information to anyone you do not know well. Ohio customers who have already received one of these fraudulent calls, are asked to report it to the ODI at 1-800-686-1527.

Lastly, if you believe that you may have given up your confidential information to a fraudulent caller, you should check your credit report and consider putting a fraud alert on your account. For more on how to check your credit report, you can follow this link to the archive of tips on this topic.

This Tip was first run in Dec 2006 when forecasters were predicting the biggest online holiday shopping season ever. Amazingly, that forecast is still true – the volume of online shopping continues to rise (though perhaps not quite as dramatically as in previous years). This “encore tip” is a reminder to shop safely during the holiday season.

Last year was the busiest online shopping year in history – and this year looks like it will be even busier. Shopping online is a convenience that we are quickly learning to take for granted. At the same time, identity theft is a steadily more serious threat. There are some risks you should consider, especially when making purchases over the Internet.

  • When shopping online, type the merchant’s URL in by hand instead of following any “convenient” link in an email or instant message. Those links can be spoofed in a phishing attack which looks like legitimate advertising.
  • Look for the prefix https in the address line. This indicates that you are on an encrypted connection to the merchant’s website. You can also look for the little yellow padlock icon in the bottom right of the browser. Be careful, however. Sophisticated hackers can spoof these signs.
  • Read the site’s privacy policy carefully and use common sense about the offer. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If you don’t trust the company to protect your personal information, shop somewhere else.
  • Make sure your own protections (anti-virus, firewall, patches) are up-to-date and running.
  • Use a credit card, not a debit card. If your credit card is stolen or the number misused, federal law limits your liability to $50 (as long as you comply with the notification requirements). If a debit card number is compromised, you could lose the entire amount in the account to which the debit card is linked.
  • Check your statement carefully for charges you don’t recognize. Report any anomalies to your bank and report a lost or stolen card immediately.
  • Consider keeping a separate credit card with a low credit limit just for internet purchases.

Remember that these rules apply when you are paying by telephone, too. You should always call the merchant (or utility, charity, etc). Never give someone your financial information if they called you. No matter who they say they are, you don’t really know who’s on the other end of that line.

Shopping online can be as safe as shopping in a physical store or through a catalog as long as you shop responsibly.

As the holidays get closer, many of us will turn to online shopping. Done right, online shopping is about as safe as catalog shopping – and much more convenient. If you don’t take basic precautions, though, you could lose your shirt. Take the time to learn about the kinds of scams and cons that are used online.

The Federal Trade Commission hosts a terrific site with lots of content on identifying and deflecting these kinds of scams. If you haven’t already been out to visit, I strongly recommend the site. It has some excellent overview material on security at the personal and small business level. The site also has a set of games covering a variety of topics like spyware, online auctioneering, peer-to-peer, phishing and spam. Test your knowledge of internet security and safe shopping. It’s well worth the time to visit the site.

The site’s material comes from a number of public and private sources but is all released for public use. If you run your own personal website, you can post their games, videos and handouts to your own site and help spread the word. (Instructions are here.)

This tip has inspired me to create a more permanent set of links to some of the better games and awareness quizzes that I’ve run across. I’ll try to get them posted in a permanent sidebar on the blog but in the meantime, here are a few good links.