Sunday, September 26, 2010

"First Life" identity security lessons

Just a little more wisdom about “physical world” security. Today, I parked my car near a scenic overlook in West Virginia, and the hike to the view took much longer than expected. I left a sheet of paper out in plain sight with potentially some business matters I really wouldn’t want others to see. It was still there when I cam back, but it’s good to remember that some “identity” problems come from carelessness in the physical (pre-Internet) world (“First Life”), too.

Another visitor left his lights on, I thought as the family left a van in a handicapped space, and I said so, and the man said, “Oh, they turn themselves off. I think they will.” They did, after the family walked down the trail, just as I was leaving. What if they hadn’t? Wouldn’t want to get stuck in the boonies with a car that doesn’t start.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

AOL continues discussion on homeowner's, auto insurance and identity, CLUE and FICO

AOL offered a guide on homeowner’s insurance today similar to one offered by MSN in April of this year. AOL stressed the idea that sometimes phone calls asking whether a minor loss is covered can affect a CLUE report. The report is by Candy Evans, is called “Know what you’re buying”, and distinguishes between “bare bones” coverage (the standard companies) and luxury or Cadillac coverage. The link is here.

People can have property insurance problems because of “pre-existing conditions” from CLUE reports just as with health insurance. Previous owners on a property could have an effect. So can someone’s FICO score, which can be affected by identity theft.

Several states have passed laws prohibiting insurance companies from reporting to CLUE inquiries that don’t result in claims.

Another point is that sometimes real property and auto insurance can be packaged for a discount, and if offered for a married couple, is cheaper if autos are titled in both names. This would discriminate against same-sex couples in states that don’t recognize same-sex marriage.

Check Lexis-Nexis for its explanation of property and subject home and auto reports, and samples.  The reports apparently show claims made before a subject acquired the property but identify them as such. Note mention of the FACT (Fair and Sccurate Credit Transactions) Act.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

AOL warns of new perilts to identity security; watch for impersonation on Twitter and Facebook

AOL has struck again (and not with an April Fools probe of Jupiter once invented by Steve Case). It has a lead story “Imposters and the art of Identity Theft” again today. Here’s their link.

The focus today is on impersonation on the web, both on Facebook and Twitter, or celebrities, and of non-celebrities (and in these days of self-display, it’s hard to tell the difference). A few states are trying to outlaw the practice. And be wary of friend requests from “Brad Pitt”, etc. (Oh, I liked Babel, too.) Of course, make sure you don't get impersonated.

Another thing to watch for is using debit cards in card readers at gas stations. Hackers have gotten to these in data transfer.

The rest of the advice in the article is pretty standard.

Whatever accounts you have online, check them frequently. That can be a bit of a problem if you have to travel a lot (especially internationally), and your employer doesn’t let you use a work laptop for personal purposes. You should consider carrying your own laptop, too, so you can keep up with everything. Handhelds and mobiles are getting better at this all the time.

Friday, September 03, 2010

P2P also invites data thieves to spy on your hard drive

Now today AOL has a warning article “Are you inviting criminals into your home?” link here. This article concerns the risks of P2P computing, often for sharing music and video, where others are allowed to access your hard drive directly (although there is plenty of web based malware that might do that).

The Today show cited a study where 150000 tax returns and over 600000 credit reports could be found on personal hard drives.

It would be interesting to study whether the level of P2P participation, function as a “super node” (which EFF says attracted RIAA lawsuits in the past) could invite more criminal activity.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

New FTC rule regarding debt settlement firms may actually jeopardize consumers

Debt settlement companies, as opposed to legitimate debt collection companies, are certainly getting bad press these days, according to a report reprinted on AOL this morning from Daily Finance, by Charles Wallace, “Consumers Face Huge Losses with Debt Settlement Firms”, link (web rul) here.

The Federal Trade Commission adopted a new rule July 28 to stop debt settlement companies from collecting fees before settling debts, but the upshot could be that many go out of business, having taken consumers’ money.

The FTC has a related story today about Clean Credit Report Services, Inc.,, about an agreement to get it from making false claims, link (website url) here.

The FTC also has a July 2010 report, “Protecting Consumers in Debt Collection Litigation and Arbitration”, PDF link here.