Archive for November, 2014

With the 2015 tax season fast approaching, the Internal Revenue Service is working to warn consumers about potential identity theft scams, as it predicts cases of stolen identities will rise next year. The IRS is plagued with problems concerning identity theft as thieves are more sophisticated in how they take consumers' personal information to submit fake tax returns. Now, the IRS is cautioning consumers that scammers are calling taxpayers, saying they are required to mail their tax returns, .

However, while these calls may sound official and even claim that consumers have been victim of identity thieves during this contact, it was actually part of an elaborate plan to steal this information. These and other similar schemes have made it more difficult for the IRS to determine which tax returns are from legitimate taxpayers and which ones were sent as a result of identity theft. 

Criticism Against the IRS
The IRS paid out an estimated $5 billion in fake tax returns in the 2013 tax filing season, . The report highlighted criticism from lawmakers urging the agency to ramp up efforts to stop identity theft and tax fraud. 

"In one case, the IRS received over 2,000 returns from a single address – paying out over $3.3 million in refunds," House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., said in a statement. "That is not just a simple error, that is clear mismanagement. IRS must ensure that all is being done to stop detect fraudulent payments, protect hard-earned taxpayer dollars, and stop the crime of tax fraud."

To lower the risk of fraud affecting taxpayers and the IRS, the GAO recommended that W-2 filing deadlines be moved to Jan. 31, which it argues could help the IRS detect identity theft fraud. 

With the prevalence of identity theft scams heading into the 2015 tax filing season, there are some tips taxpayers could follow to protect themselves, including:

  • File electronically. The IRS suggests that consumers should file their taxes electronically. 
  • Lock your mailbox. With employers sending sensitive information like W-2s and other personal documents, consumers could lock their mailboxes to prevent thieves from accessing this mail.
  • Avoid unsolicited calls. Calls such as those described above are made to sound legitimate but typically taxpayers will not be asked to reveal their personal in unsolicited calls. 
  • Call the IRS. The IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit is available for people to contact in case they suspect they've become victims of identity theft. 

With the massive data breach at Home Depot, financial institutions are feeling the pressure to adapt to new ways to fight against the techniques and tools employed by cybercriminals. While big banks might have the resources for IT security to handle cyberintrusions, data breaches might have a greater impact on smaller institutions like credit unions.

The Home Depot breach confirmed on Sept. 18 compromised an estimated 56 million debit and credit card numbers, . 

After the incident, credit unions reported losses from reissuing cards, fraud and other costs. Credit unions across the U.S. had to issue 7.2 million credit and debit cards as a result of the breach, with costs totaling $57.4 million, according to a survey by the Credit Union National Association. The Home Depot data breach costs were almost double that of the expenses connected to the incident at Target, when 40 million credit and debit cards were affected in the holiday season of 2013. 

With the high costs of data breaches to credit unions, these financial institutions are finding new ways to combat cybercriminals. 

Here are the potential cybersecurity changes for credit unions in the future:

Implementation of Chip and PIN Technology
When cybercriminals get their hands on the financial information of consumers, they could put this data up for sale on black markets. Reissuing new cards is an effective way to prevent thieves from making fraudulent purchases. However, it's expensive for credit unions as it cost an average of $2.64 per card in the case of the Home Depot breach, according to the CUNA survey.

Implementing more secure payment technology like chip and PIN credit cards could help curb the cost of reissuing credit and debit cards after a data breach as the more advanced cards would make it harder to copy data. In the past, retailers accused credit unions of not taking on chip and PIN technology by the date established by the financial industry, . But changes in cybersecurity standards could necessitate this emerging technology. 

Stricter Data Security Standards
After the Home Depot breach, leaders of the credit union association called for tougher data security standards not only for credit unions, but across the board for segments of the economy that are especially vulnerable to cyberattacks, including the retail industry. 

"Congress has a role to play in addressing the issue of merchant data breaches by making sure all of the participants are playing by the same set of data security rules, and that merchants who hold consumer data and allow that data to be breached, are responsible for the costs incurred by others," CUNA President and CEO Jim Nussle said in a statement. 

With new data breach legislation making its way in Congress, improved security standards for private networks and point-of-sale systems could deter cybercriminals from stealing valuable information that could result in huge financial losses for credit unions and banks. 

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The holidays are right around the corner. We understand the desire to give that special someone the latest tech devices out there. We also get that people have reservations about privacy and safety. Here are some of the season’s hottest gadgets with protection tips from Brian Huntley, senior information security advisor at IDT911 Consulting.

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IDT911 unveiled , a new online publication for cyber privacy, data breach and identity fraud news, on Tuesday at the second annual Privacy XChange Forum in Scottsdale, Arizona.

The news site will strive to engage readers in a conversation about these critical security issues at a time when companies of all sizes and in nearly every industry are experiencing data breaches as a third certainty in life.

Byron Acohido, one of the nation’s most respected cybersecurity and privacy experts, will serve as Editor-In-Chief. The site is underwritten by , the nation’s premier consultative provider of identity and data risk management, resolution, and education services. ThirdCertainty.com will feature breaking and investigative news pieces with commentary from industry experts.

“Data breaches and the identity theft that flows from them is the third certainty in life, and their effects can wreak havoc on the financial health and reputation of businesses and consumers alike,” said Adam Levin, chairman and founder of IDT911 and Credit.com. “The public is thirsty for knowledge about all things privacy, and business leaders now know that a breach can easily undo years of brand equity. Everyone at some point in their lives is going to get got, very likely more than once.”
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Computers are more ubiquitous, affordable, and networked than ever, said Kevin Ashton, the entrepreneurial mind behind the Internet of Things and keynote speaker at the second annual .

What does that mean for your privacy?

“It means your privacy is not just at risk when you interact with your device, it means your privacy is at risk when you interact with the world,” said Ashton, general manager of Conserve, a division of consumer electronics giant Belkin International.

Ashton, speaking to more than 150 delegates at the conference, shared key trends that illustrate our move into an age where computers are even more prevalent and compact. First, everything is becoming networked, that is more devices are putting data onto the Internet. Second, we’ve arrived at census, the ability of these devices to gather information for themselves. (more…)

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Some industries are more negatively impacted by data breaches. For example, retail, media, and financial sectors experience a greater loss of customers, while education and health care sustain a higher cost per exposed record, according to a panel of security experts at the Privacy XChange Forum.

The panel, moderated by Deena Coffman, CEO of IDT911 Consulting, brought together Dr. Deborah C. Peel, founder and chairwoman of Patient Privacy Rights, Arthur Tisi, CIO of Natural Markets Food Group, Ali Waezzadah, vice president of information security at CBS, and Michael Young, vice president and product team manager at EverBank, to discuss “Bull’s-Eye: Why High-Risk Industries Are Data Breach Targets.”

The panelists identified the biggest security challenges they face in their respective industries: (more…)

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Welcome to the second annual , a two-day exploration of the Post Privacy Era uniting a diverse group of leaders from the public and privacy sectors at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona.

In the past year, we’ve witnessed numerous data breaches impacting a range of industries including financial, retail and health care. Headlines featured high-profile attacks with software bugs such as Shellshock and Heartbleed.

“This forum, The Post Privacy Era, is meant to be a realistic assessment of where things are in the digital world around privacy and a call to action for all of us who are trying find solutions for people and combat these risks in an intelligent way,” said Matt Cullina, chief executive officer at IDT911, to more than 150 delegates. (more…)