August 10th, 2014
In an era where getting the latest and greatest technology is of utmost importance, we must be conscientious to step back and analyze the implications of living life in such a way. Technology can and has undoubtedly allowed our world to make major advances in almost every field of study. Nevertheless, our technology-driven world can also have security consequences that can affect each of us. The most common place technology introduces itself is inside our homes; our supposed “safe place”. But just how safe is it?
Smart technology has evolved to let users control a number of functions remotely from a computer, tablet, or smart phone. It is typical for the connection to be made via the internet, which is often not secured. An unsecured connection allows not only your personal information to be accessible, but also opens the door for a potential hacker to steal your valuables and even your bank account. Many use the latest applications (apps) to do simple tasks such as turn on lights or adjust the thermostat, but are also able to perform security measures such as turning on the alarm system or checking a bank account, with the simple push of a button. These great conveniences can make individuals extremely vulnerable. It is easy to unknowingly trade security for convenience while using these applications.
This is not intended to dissuade people from using technology, but rather to urge safe practice when using these great advances. The Target scandal of 2013, where millions of customer’s credit cards pins were stolen, provides a cautionary tale. If it can happen to a large scale corporation that employs thousands to provide security, it can happen to you.
However, there are measures that consumers can take to make themselves less vulnerable to these security intrusions. It is in the best interest of those who employ many smart devices around their home to hire a computer technician to configure a network that is different from the one used by personal computers. This network can then be setup to only communicate with the smart devices through an encrypted virtual private network (VPN). For around a $75 dollar fee and an hour of their time, an individual can save themselves from the slew of headaches that can be the result of a hacker. A simple step that everyone can preemptively take is to make passwords longer and more complex. To do this successfully, a password should be 10 to 15 characters long, use capital and lower case letters, and include numbers as well as a special character (.!?&* etc.) This simple step can resonate through all online activity to constantly keep you safe from the smart world we live in.
May 31st, 2014
Imposter fraud has become increasingly endemic in the U.S. in recent years. The term has been coined to describe a situation in which people pose as law enforcement agents, government officials, or even relatives in order to scam money from innocent people on the other end of the phone. The most targeted are the elderly due to the low-risk nature of the crime and the unfortunate fact that most incidents go unreported. Seniors often times feel embarrassed in situations in which they were taken advantage of, especially where they might feel some kind of cognitive loss. However, retirees are also prime targets because of their retirement savings and equity in their homes, as well as lottery/sweepstakes winners due to their newfound funds.
One of the newest scams surfacing preys upon the elderly and their civic duty. Targets are told that they have failed to show up for jury duty and will be arrested. To avoid arrest, the individual is told, they must pay money. It’s these kinds of scams, those which tap into fear, that end up being successful. Seniors understand that it is possible they could have forgotten an appointment and know that avoiding jury duty could potentially be punishable by law; thus the crook and his story become believable.
It is important to be aware of such scams so you don’t find yourself on the unlucky end of one of these schemes. Diligence in keeping up to date on the latest scams affecting citizens can help to avoid falling into the trap. Law enforcement agents stress that they never call and ask for personal financial information over the phone. In March, the AARP began a Fraud Watch Network map in order to expand awareness of the growing epidemic. The network also has a fraud hotline, 877-908-3360, which you can call if you have any questions or receive any suspicious phone calls.
October 24th, 2012
Although no method is full proof, we thought we would provide some information and tips on how to avoid identity theft. The tips include the following:
- Never carry your Social Security Card.
- Shred all personal documents.
- Watch your mail.
- Drop checks at a mailbox or post office.
- Hold mail when out of town.
- Know your payment cycles and when your statement arrives; monitor your statements.
- Take care when using the Internet.
- Select strong and unique passwords.
- Avoid calls from charitable organizations.
- Keep separate list of credit card account numbers as well as contact numbers – easy reference in case stolen or misplaced.
- Review your credit report regularly.
- Shred pre-approved credit card offers.
- Password protect mobile phones and computers.
- Do not provide sensitive information over the telephone.
- Take extra care when using ATMs so that information you input is not capable of being seen by anyone.
If you feel like you have been a victim of identity theft you should:
- call the three credit reporting agencies and place fraud alerts on your Social Security Number;
- have a copy of your credit report sent to you and look it over carefully for any fraudulent activity of inaccuracies;
- call the police where you live. You may want to have a report made so that this report can be sent to your creditors to report any fraud;
- call and write to all creditors who opened fraudulent accounts; send the correspondence certified, return receipt requested and advise that it is a case of identity theft. Request copies of all applications and transaction information.
Contact information for the major credit reporting agencies:
- Transunion – (800) 888-4213; www.tuc.com
- Experian – (888) Experian; www.experian.com
- Equifax – (800) 685-1111; www.equifax.com
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
December 23rd, 2011
While this article is geared towards real estate agents, we feel it is helpful for others to be aware of. With the ever-increasing importance of the internet in our day-to-day lives, scams such as the one described below, and other email scams/solicitations, are becoming more and more common. The need to be cautious and confirm the legitimacy of any solicitation is more important than ever.
In this past year alone, HoganWillig has encountered half a dozen fraudulent internet schemes stemming from residential real estate transactions.
November 20th, 2008
I attended a meeting this morning where it was announced that there had been a significant rise in title insurance claims in New York State. These claims are made against title insurance policies issued to either the homeowner (if he/she purchased this optional policy at the time they bought their home) or the bank lending the money for their purchase or refinance (such a policy is always required by the bank).
October 27th, 2008
I read with interest a September 26, 2008, article in The Buffalo News, about an 88 year old area widow who had been bilked out of close to $80,000.00 for home improvements that were never done and were done in a shoddy fashion. My first thought was