Cyber Fraud: Protect Your Assets Online

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August 01, 2012

You likely lock the front door of your house, wear a seat belt and have health insurance for obvious reasons. But how careful are you with your electronic information? Identity theft, via cyber fraud, is one of the fastest growing crimes, which could mean it’s more important than ever to proactively protect your information.


“Cyber crime is just a new avenue for traditional crime,” says Darren Hayes, the Computer Information Systems program chair at Pace University in New York City, who spent more than a decade in the financial industry researching security and computer forensics. “The biggest area of concern is the data leakage through smartphones, especially when individuals have multiple smartphones for the office and home.”

Some criminals now go “bluesnarfing,” where they move within six feet of an individual using a Bluetooth device and have unauthorized access to information from a wireless device like a cell phone through the Bluetooth connection, which usually isn’t password protected, Hayes says. “But using a complex password on your cell phone and setting your Bluetooth device in a non-discoverable mode may help prevent this from happening.”


“Look at the amount of data we hold on a smartphone,” says Steve Durbin, Global Vice President of the Information Security Forum (ISF), an independent, nonprofit organization dedicated to investigating and solving key issues with information security and risk management. “That data can be stolen in traditional way by someone leaving an unsupervised tablet or iPhone on the table of a coffee shop or through cyber fraud. Either way, we hold a tremendous amount of valuable information on mobile devices. It’s a fairly rich phishing ground for criminals.”


Even items many people may not consider “electronic” can be a prime target for cyber fraud. That includes newer U.S. passports, which are now embedded with an electronic chip. They can be an easy target, Hayes says, because they hold a lot of information and if they don’t have some type of metal carrying case around them, hackers can access and download information while you walk by them. Even wrapping a passport in a thin layer of tinfoil can add a layer of protection, he says.

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August 01, 2012

Another growing problem is credit card and ATM fraud. “There’s been a real explosion of skimmers,” Hayes says. Thieves use a false front on an ATM machine, a credit card reader or have a pinhole camera in a smoke detector in the ceiling near an ATM to capture information. It’s a growing problem, especially with the affluent who are being targeted, Hayes says, including patrons of high-end restaurants. “People think they are more secure going to a restaurant than an online store,” Hayes says. “But very often the opposite is true.”


That’s because websites like, collect and encrypt the information shared with a credit card company, Hayes says. Still, make sure to use common sense, Hayes suggests. If a website doesn’t look right or if your credit card disappears for 10-15 minutes with a server at a restaurant, don’t use the site and start asking the restaurant questions and monitor your credit card account.


“It’s difficult,” Hayes says. “But there are things you can do to help prevent cyber fraud.”


How to Recognize and Prevent Fraud

Email fraud, also called phishing, occurs when a large number of recipients are sent email messages referencing a well-known bank or retailer, without the knowledge of the recipient's relationship to that company. These phishing emails will tell you that you must use the provided link to verify or change your account in some way. Keep in mind that The Private Client Reserve of U.S. Bank will never send you an email requesting this type of information.







If you do receive a suspicious looking email, check for tell-tale signs, says Fred Cate, a law professor at Indiana University, who specializes in information privacy and security law as the university’s founding director of the university’s Center for Applied Cybersecurity Research. “Fraudulent emails often have typographical or formatting errors, or otherwise don’t look right, even if the email purports to come from your bank,” Cate says. “If the logo is fuzzy or pixilated, it’s a good sign it’s not from your bank.”


What to Do if You Have Been a Victim of Identify Theft


Fake emails sent by cyber criminals will:


  • Appear to be from legitimate banks, financial institutions or retailers using copied logos and content style.
  • Use fake websites or pop-up windows to collect your personal information. Links to real websites can be incorporated into the email to lead you to believe the email is legitimate.
  • Request confidential information like account numbers, personal IDs, passwords, card numbers and PINs.
  • Attempt to elicit a response from the recipient who may or may not be a customer of that financial institution or retailer.
  • Use stolen information to access a customer's accounts by combining balances into one account and withdrawing the funds at ATMs worldwide.
  • Use upsetting or exciting messages in the email so you react immediately and respond with the desired information without thinking.
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August 01, 2012

Protect yourself

It’s important to take multiple precautions to protect your information in this digital age. Here are a few suggestions that may help prevent cyber fraud.


  • Take the time to examine the claims in the email.
  • Check the email’s authenticity by contacting the company appearing to be the originator via a contact person or phone number you already have if you have an existing relationship with the company.
  • Never share any personal information including: Social Security numbers, account numbers, login and password or PIN for your check card, credit card or ATM card information via email. Frequently monitor account balances and credit card accounts.
  • Provide personal information only on websites that are secure and only when you have initiated the contact. Always check for the lock icon in the bottom right of your screen, and check the browser to make sure that "https" ("s" indicates secure) is displayed in the website address.
  • Beware of suspicious text messages requesting your account information via your mobile device (e.g., cell phone, PDA, etc.). The Private Client Reserve of U.S. Bank will never send a text message to your mobile device asking you for this type of information.








Make sure you lock your phone with a strong password.

  • To help locate and protect your smartphone, tablet or laptop, if it is ever lost or stolen, consider downloading an application (app) to help recover your device. Some apps will allow you to completely wipe the device remotely or locate it via GPS and lock it. The “iGotYa” app cleverly snaps a picture of a user if someone tries to unlock your iPhone using an incorrect password. The app then emails the photo and phone’s location to the email address on file with the account.

Password Protection


Keep Your Computer Up-to-Date

Make sure your computer is installed with the most current anti-virus software to prevent viruses, and anti spam software to help prevent spam and junk email from entering your inbox. Additionally, make sure you:


  • Install a firewall to help prevent unauthorized access to your computer.
  • Install spyware software to block the installation of spyware on your computer. Spyware can monitor or control your computer use, and send you pop-ups or redirect you to websites.
  • Keep your computer operating system and Internet browser current to provide additional protection against fraud and theft.
  • Back up all sensitive information from your old computer before you erase and discard the hard drive.
  • Change your wireless network default password as well as the default SSID (name used to identify your network), don't broadcast your SSID and consider using encryption on your network.
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August 01, 2012

Other Fraud Avenues

Websites like can allow individuals to call someone with any Caller ID number and possibly access your voicemail, if it’s not PIN protected.


Cyber fraud criminals are then using that website and others as a tool, Hayes says, after they hack into Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media sites to access personal information, including phone numbers.


After finding phone numbers online, some criminals will then impersonate a call from a friend. Other cyber hackers, Hayes says, will review your online activity and see if you’ve mentioned or posted on Facebook a topic like a medical situation. The criminals will then use a website like to fake a call from a hospital and ask for collection money.

As with other situations, Hayes says, it best to be vigilant and use common sense. If someone calls and it doesn’t sound like someone you know, question it. If someone tells you they are from a credit card company or a bank, offer to call them back on a number you find online, to ensure you are truly talking to the someone from the institution they work for.


Receive a Suspicious Email?

If you receive a suspicious email that references U.S. Bank, please forward it immediately to




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