What Is Identity Theft?
Ever have a fraudulent charge appear on your credit card statement?
Now imagine having your entire identity stolen. Your social security number, business ID number, access to your personal and business bank accounts, retirement accounts – swiped out from under you. Your personal and business cards can be maxed out too. What’s worse, you could lose your client database, financial records and all of the work files your company has ever produced or compiled. That’s identity theft.
Now imagine what would happen if you had to invest an enormous amount of time, money, effort and energy to try to restore your credit and good reputation. Think about how much your business would suffer if one day your payroll money or the money you use to pay vendors was stolen out from under you.
Or what if an online criminal stole your identity and used it to pull off other criminal acts? Could your business survive a front-page news story about how you or your company ripped off hundreds of people? Though you might be “innocent until proven guilty” in the justice system, you are “guilty until proven innocent” in the media.
Could You Financially Survive If Your Business And Personal Identity Were Stolen?
Many small business owners tend to ignore or simply don’t know about taking steps to secure their personal and company information on their network from online hijacks. By then it’s too late and the damage is done.
But That Could Never Happen To Me!
(And Other Lies Business Owners Like To Believe About Their
Personal And Business Identities…)
About 1 in every 30 people will experience identity theft every year. And with new and clever technologies developing all the time, this number could increase.
While it may be difficult to determine the actual financial impact identity theft would have on your business, you can’t deny the fact that it would have a negative effect. Cash most definitely IS king. And if yours is stolen and used by a cybercriminal, the emotional toll such an event would take on you personally would certainly impact your business, even if you haven’t put a pencil to figuring out the exact cost.
Take a look at these statistics…
- As many as 9 million Americans have their identities stolen every year. (Source: The United States Federal Trade Commission)
- The dollar amount of identity fraud over the last two years totals over $100 billion. (Source: Javelin Strategy and Research)
- 11.6% of all identity theft (over 1 million cases) occurs online (with the remainder of personal information being stolen by more traditional methods like stealing wallets or overhearing a social security number). (Source: Javelin Strategy and Research)
- It takes the average victim of identity theft more than 600 hours – that’s equivalent to nearly 3 months of 40-hour workweeks – to clear their name and clean up the fraud conducted with their personal information. (Source: Javelin Strategy and Research)
- Because identity theft and Internet fraud are often misclassified crimes, a culprit has only a 1 in 700 chance of being caught by the federal government. (Source: Gartner Survey, 2003)
- Cybercriminals stole an average of $900 from each of 3 million Americans in the past year, and that doesn’t include the hundreds of thousands of PCs rendered useless by spyware. (Source: Gartner Group)
Why Small Businesses Are Especially Vulnerable
To Identity Theft
With the constant changes to technology and the daily development of new threats, it takes a highly trained technician to secure even a basic 5- to 10-person computer network; however, the cost of hiring a full-time, experienced technician is just not feasible for most small business owners.
In an attempt to save money, many businesses try to do their own in-house IT support and designate the person with the most technical expertise as the part-time IT manager. This never works out because this makeshift IT person has another full-time job to do and is usually not skilled enough to properly support an entire computer network anyway.
This inevitably results in a network that is ill-maintained and unstable. It also means that the backups, virus updates and security patches are not getting timely updates, giving a false sense of security.
It’s only a matter of time before an online hacker finds his way into your network and steals your information. If you’re lucky, it will only cost you a little downtime, but there’s always a chance you could end up like the companies affected by these criminals…
$764,000 Stolen From Insurance Company
A man was indicted, pleaded guilty to federal charges and was sentenced to 27 months’ imprisonment for obtaining private bank account information about an insurance company’s policyholders and using that information to deposit $764,000 in counterfeit checks into a bank account he established.
Social Security Number Swiped From A Web Site
A defendant has been indicted on bank fraud charges for obtaining names, addresses and social security numbers from a web site and using the data to apply for a series of car loans over the Internet.
$13,000 Drained From This Business Owner’s Account
A woman was indicted and pleaded guilty to federal charges involving her obtaining a fraudulent driver’s license in the name of the victim, using the license to withdraw more than $13,000 from the victim’s bank account, and obtaining five department store credit cards in the victim’s name and charging approximately $4,000 on those cards.
How Online Identity Thieves Get Hold Of
Some identity theft does occur through more “old-school” methods such as stealing your wallet, raiding your business files, overhearing you give a credit card or social security number over the phone, or even raiding your business file cabinet. However, common-sense tactics such as avoiding public conversations that involve your personal or business financial information or putting locks on your file cabinets can be used to combat those threats.
Internet threats, on the other hand, are much more sophisticated and involve greater “know-how” in order to prevent them.
There are 3 basic ways cybercriminals gain access to your personal information over the web. They are:
- Phishing – Phishing is where online scammers send spam or pop-up messages to your computer and try to get you to provide personal or sensitive business information over the web. Online criminals will typically send messages that look like legitimate messages from your bank, credit card company or other financial institution. In the message, there is usually a web site link where it asks you to update your contact information.
Many of these web sites look like EXACT replicas of your bank or credit card web site. However, entering your information into one of these sneaky portals means you are handing over the keys to the castle to a complete “evildoer.”
The Internet thief can now use your personal information to gain access to other private accounts, raid your business and rack up thousands of dollars in faulty charges.
Tech Support Scams. Scam artists are using the phone to try to break into your computer. They call, claiming to be computer techs associated with well-known companies like Microsoft. They say they have detected a virus or malware on your computer to trick you into giving them remote access or paying for software you don’t need. The Catch: These scammers take advantage of your reasonable concerns about viruses and other threats. They know that computer users have heard time and again that it’s important to install security software. But the purpose behind their elaborate scheme isn’t to protect your computer – it’s to take money.
- E-mail Scams – Offers, detailed sales pitches, links to informational web sites. These seemingly harmless e-mails are actually the makings of an Internet crime. They’ll ask for your credit card information to buy a fake product or to pay for shipping on a “free” gift.
The most common e-mail scams used to steal your identity are (as found on www.onguardonline.gov):
The “Nigerian” E-mail Scam. Con artists claim to be officials, businesspeople or the surviving spouses of former government honchos in Nigeria or another country whose money is somehow tied up for a limited time. They offer to transfer lots of money into your bank account if you will pay a fee or “taxes” to help them access their money. If you respond to the initial offer, you may receive documents that look “official.” Then they ask you to send money to cover transaction and transfer costs and attorneys’ fees, as well as blank letterhead, your bank account numbers or other information. They may even encourage you to travel to the country in question, or a neighboring country, to complete the transaction. Some fraudsters have even produced trunks of dyed or stamped money to try to verify their claims.
The Catch: The e-mails are from crooks trying to steal your money or your identity. Inevitably in this scenario, emergencies come up requiring more of your money and delaying the “transfer” of funds to your account. In the end, there aren’t any profits for you, and the scam artist vanishes with your money. The harm sometimes can be felt even beyond your pocketbook: according to State Department reports, people who have responded to “pay in advance” solicitations have been beaten, subjected to threats and extortion, and, in some cases, murdered.
Phising E-mail Scam. E-mail or pop-up messages that claim to be from a business or organization you may deal with – say, an Internet service provider (ISP), bank, online payment service or even a government agency. The message may ask you to “update,” “validate” or “confirm” your account information or face dire consequences.
The Catch: Phishing is a scam where Internet fraudsters send spam or pop-up messages to reel in personal and financial information from unsuspecting victims. The messages direct you to a web site that looks just like a legitimate organization’s site, or to a phone number purporting to be real. But these are bogus and exist simply to trick you into divulging your personal information so the operators can steal it, fake your identity and run up bills or commit crimes in your name.
- 3. Spyware – Spyware is software installed on your computer without your consent to monitor or control your computer use. Clues that spyware is on a computer may include a barrage of pop-ups, a browser that takes you to sites you don’t want, unexpected toolbars or icons on your computer screen, keys that don’t work, random error messages and sluggish performance when opening programs or saving files. In some cases, there may be no symptoms at all.
Four Things You Must Do To Protect Your Company
While it’s impossible to plan for every potential scenario, a little proactive planning and proper network precautions will help you avoid or greatly reduce the impact of the vast majority of cyber identity theft you could experience.
Step #1: Make Sure Your Backups Are Encrypted
It just amazes me how many businesses don’t have the security of encrypted backups. Encryption takes every little keystroke that you type and every little piece of data in your computer and turns it into dozens – or hundreds – of other characters. For example, just one letter “A” could turn into 256 different letters, numbers and symbols when it is encrypted. It basically makes it a whole lot more difficult for a hacker to figure out what the data is. On the other hand, if you DON’T have encryption, you are opening yourself up to a BIG risk of your identity and other important data being swiped. That is why it is so important to make sure your backup is properly secured.
Step #2: Make Sure Your Virus Protection Is ALWAYS On AND Up-To-Date
You would have to be living under a rock to not know how devastating a virus can be to your network. With virus attacks coming from spam, downloaded data and music files, instant messages, web sites and e-mails from friends and clients, you cannot afford to be without up-to-date virus protection.
Not only can a virus corrupt your files and bring down your network, but it can also hurt your reputation. If you or one of your employees unknowingly spreads a virus to a customer, or if the virus hijacks your e-mail address book, you’re going to make a lot of people very angry.
Step #3: Set Up A Firewall And Update It Regularly
Small business owners tend to think that because they are “just a small business,” no one would waste time trying to hack into their network, when nothing could be further from the truth. I’ve conducted experiments where I connected a single computer to the Internet with no firewall. Within minutes, over 13 gigabytes of space was taken over by malicious code and files that I could not delete. The simple fact is that there are thousands of unscrupulous individuals out there who think it’s fun to steal your personal information just because they can.
These individuals strike randomly by searching the Internet for open, unprotected ports. As soon as they find one, they will delete files or download huge files that cannot be deleted, shutting down your hard drive. They can also use your computer as a zombie for storing pirated software or sending spam, which will cause your ISP to shut YOU down and prevent you from accessing the Internet or sending and receiving e-mail.
If the malicious programs can’t be deleted, you’ll have to reformat the entire hard drive, causing you to lose every piece of information you’ve ever owned, UNLESS you were backing up your files properly (see 1 to 3 above).
Step #4: Update Your System With Critical Security Patches As They Become Available
If you do not have the most up-to-date security patches and virus definitions installed on your network, hackers can access your computer through a simple banner ad or through an e-mail attachment.
Not too long ago Microsoft released a security bulletin about three newly discovered vulnerabilities that could allow an attacker to gain control of your computer by tricking users into downloading and opening a maliciously crafted picture. At the same time, Microsoft released a Windows update to correct the vulnerabilities; but if you didn’t have a process to ensure you were applying critical updates as soon as they became available, you were completely vulnerable to this attack. It is an EASY way for someone to gain access to your information and steal your identity.
Here’s another compelling reason to ensure your network stays up-to-date with the latest security patches…
Most hackers do not discover these security loopholes on their own. Instead, they learn about them when Microsoft (or any other software vendor, for that matter) announces the vulnerability and issues an update. That is their cue to spring into action and they immediately go to work to analyze the update and craft an exploit (like a virus) that allows them access to any computer or network that has not yet installed the security patch.
In essence, the time between the release of the update and the release of the exploit that targets the underlying vulnerability is getting shorter every day.
When the “nimda” worm was first discovered back in the fall of 2001, Microsoft had already released the patch that protected against that vulnerability almost a year before (331 days). So network administrators had plenty of time to apply the update. Of course, many still hadn’t done so, and the nimda worm caused lots of damage. These days, these vulnerabilities are uncovered and exploited in mere hours or at most a few days!
Clearly, someone needs to be paying close attention to your systems to ensure that critical updates are applied as soon as possible. That is why we highly recommend small business owners without a full-time IT staff allow their consultant to monitor and maintain their network.
A Simple And Easy Way To Ensure Identity Theft Doesn’t Happen To You
If you are sitting there thinking, “This all sounds great, but I don’t have the time or the staff to handle all of this work,” I’ve got the solution.
Thanks to a service we offer called “BNCSecure” we can completely take over the day-to-day management and maintenance of your computer network and free you from expensive, frustrating computer problems, downtime and security threats, AND PROTECT YOUR IDENTITY from being stolen online. You’ll get all the benefits of a highly trained, full-time IT department at only a fraction of the cost.
And here is the best part…
In most cases, we can cut your IT support costs by 30% to 50% WHILE improving the reliability and performance of your network and eliminating spyware, spam, downtime and other computer frustrations!
The Benefits Are Obvious:
- You’ll eliminate expensive repairs and recovery costs. Our network monitoring and maintenance will save you money by preventing expensive network disasters from ever happening in the first place. As a matter of fact, we guarantee it.
- You’ll avoid expensive trip fees while receiving faster support. Our remote monitoring software will enable us to access and repair most network problems right from our offices. No more waiting around for an engineer to show up!
- How does faster performance, fewer “glitches” and practically zero downtime sound to you? Under this program, that is exactly what we’ll deliver. Some parts of your system will degrade in performance over time, causing them to slow down, hang up and crash. Our preventative maintenance and network monitoring will make sure your computers stay in tip-top shape for maximum speed, performance and reliability.
- You will have ALL of the benefits of an in-house IT department WITHOUT all of the costs. As a Managed Network Service Plan customer, you’ll have access to a knowledgeable support staff that can be reached immediately should you have any kind of problem or question.
- You’ll receive substantial discounts on IT services that you are already buying. Most IT firms will nickel-and-dime you over every little thing they do; under this program, you’ll pay one flat, affordable rate and get all the technical support you need. No hidden charges, caveats or disclaimers.
- You will never have to fear a big, expensive network repair bill. Its that simple. We let you know it all upfront!
- You’ll sleep easier knowing the “gremlins at the gate” are being watched and kept out of your network.
- You’ll safeguard your data. The data on the hard disk is always more important than the hardware that houses it. If you rely on your computer systems for daily operations, it’s time to get serious about protecting your critical, irreplaceable electronic information.
- You’ll finally put a stop to annoying spam, pop-ups and spyware taking over your computer and your network.
- You’ll gain incredible peace of mind. As a business owner, you already have enough to worry about. We’ll make sure everything pertaining to your network security and reliability is handled so you don’t have to worry about it.
How Safe Is YOUR Identity?
FREE Network Security Analysis Reveals The Truth
Hopefully this e-book acted as an eye-opener to all small business owners who are not adequately protecting their data and computer network. If you are not doing the 4 steps outlined in this e-book, your network is an accident waiting to happen and the most important thing for you to do now is take immediate action toward protecting yourself.
One of the biggest, costliest mistakes you can make is to ignore this advice
with the false hope that identity theft could never happen to you.
Because you have taken the time to request and read this informational booklet, I would like to offer you a FREE Network Security analysis. Normally I charge $250 for this service.
During this audit I will come on-site and…
- Pinpoint any exposure to or risk from hackers, viruses, spyware, spam, data loss, power outages, system downtime and even employee sabotage. This analysis will assess YOUR risk of identity theft.
- Review your system backups to make sure the data CAN be recovered in case of a disaster. You don’t want to discover that your backups were corrupt AFTER a major disaster wiped out your network.
- Scan your network for hidden spyware and viruses that hackers “plant” in your network to steal information, deliver spam and track your online activities.
- Look for hidden problems that cause error messages, slow performance and network crashes.
- Answer any questions you have about your network or keeping it running problem-free. I can also give you a second opinion on any projects you are considering.
There Are No Strings Attached,
But You Have To Hurry…
As you might have guessed, I cannot extend this offer forever, because time and staff limitations simply won’t allow it.
If you want to say goodbye to your computer problems, protect your personal and business identity and stop worrying about the security of your data from hardware failures, viruses, hackers and other threats, then you’ll want to sign up right now for this free Network Security Analysis.
There is absolutely no obligation or pressure for you to buy anything, or to ever use our services again. As I stated earlier, this is simply an easy way for us to demonstrate how we can help your business at no risk to you.
How To Secure Your Free Network Security Analysis
- Fill in and fax back the enclosed request form.
- Call me direct at 914-290-4250 ext. 209.
- Send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org with the words “Security Analysis” in the subject line. Be sure to include your company name, address and phone number so I can follow up with you.
BNC Voice & Data
Sales Marketing & Advertising Engineer
O: 914-269-0078 ext. 209
P.S. Please note that this offer for a FREE Network Security Analysis won’t be around forever. While we would love to be able to give these away to everyone, staff and time limitations simply won’t allow it. That’s why you must respond to this offer by the date stamped on the enclosed fax-back form today.
You have my word that you will not be under any pressure or obligation to buy anything, or to ever use our services again.
“Yes! I Want To Make Sure My Network And Company’s Data Are Safe From Harm So I Can Prevent Identity Theft From Happening To Me”
Please sign me up for a FREE Security Audit so I can make sure I am doing everything possible to secure my network.
I understand that I am under no obligation to do or to buy anything by requesting this audit. I further understand that these audits are being made available on a first-come, first-served basis.
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Number of PCs:
Fax To: 914-920-3676
Call Me Direct At: 914-290-4250 ext. 209