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Office of Information Security

Security Tip of the Week

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BBB Warning: "Secret Sister" Gift Exchange is Illegal



The Better Business Bureau is reminding consumers that the online "Secret Sister" gift exchange and similar invitations are illegal and should be ignored. The campaign, which was first big in 2015, has again been circulating on social media sites, in particular Facebook

Read how this scheme works.
By Better Business Bureau. November 15, 2018.


Scammers demand Gift Cards

Gift Cards

Gift cards are a great way to give a gift. But did you know they are also a scammer's favorite way to steal money? According to the FTC's new Data Spotlight, more scammers are demanding payment with a gift card than ever before – a whopping 270 percent increase since 2015.

Gift cards are for gifts, not for payments. If someone calls with urgent news or a convincing story and then pressures you to pay them by buying a gift card, like an iTunes or Google Play card, and then giving them the codes on the back of the card – stop. It's a scam.

Gift cards are the number one payment method that imposters demand. They might pose as IRS officials and say you're in trouble for not paying taxes; or a family member with an emergency; or a public utility company threatening to shut off your water; or even a service member selling something before deployment. Or they might call with great news – you've won a contest or a prize! But to get it, you need to pay fees with a gift card. Scammers will say anything to get your money. And they know how to play into your fears, hopes, or sympathies. They like gift cards because, once they've got the code on the back, the money is gone and almost impossible to trace. But knowing how these scams work can help you avoid them, and you can help even more by passing on the information to people you know.

October 16, 2018
by Cristina Miranda
Division of Consumer and Business Education, FTC

Fake Scam Scam




Fake checks drive many types of scams – like those involving phony prize wins, fake jobs, mystery shoppers, online classified ad sales, and others. In a fake check scam, a person you don't know asks you to deposit a check – sometimes for several thousand dollars and usually for more than what you are owed – and wire some of the money back to that person.

The FTC has put together a inforgraphic to help breakdown what Fake Check Scams are!


Securing your Internet of Things Devices



They are in millions of homes all over the country -- high-tech gadgets, toys and ap-pliances that entertain us and make life easier. But these popular "smart home" devices have hidden risks that could make you and your family easy targets for hackers.

Learn more about Securing your IoT Devices.



Free Security Scans



Messages telling you to install and update security software for your computer seem to be everywhere. So you might be tempted by an offer of a "free security scan," especially when faced with a pop-up, an email, or an ad that claims "malicious software" has already been found on your machine. Unfortunately, it's likely that the scary message is a come-on for a rip-off.

The FTC has some tips on avoiding these malware scams.



Welcome Back!

CCT-Welcome Back


To help start this year off right, Information Security has created a useful tip sheet that everyone can use to stay secure! From information about GeoTagging to Anti-virus, this sheet will help you get your security and privacy options up to date!

Check out the security tip sheet!




Tech Support Scams

Tech Support Scams


The FTC knows about Tech Support scams. They did an informative article on the scams in July. However, the FTC wants to put information in your hands to help others around you! They have some quick tips you can learn so that you can help those around you avoid these scams.


Check out the FTC's tips on how to help your friend avoid Tech Support Scams!



Chrome gets and update.

Google Chrome


The Chrome team is delighted to announce the promotion of Chrome 68 to the stable channel for Windows, Mac and Linux.
This will roll out over the coming days/weeks.

Chrome 68.0.3440.75 contains a number of fixes and improvements -- a list of changes is available in the log.





Free Trials are not always "free"

free Sign Up


Free trial Offers are often used by scammers to drag money out of you with hidden or undisclosed fee's or even by charging you immediately at the end of your trial period.  Recently the FTC dealt with a massive scam that charged users who agreed to the "free" trial upwards of one-hundred dollars!


The FTC has a couple of tips to help you spot a "free" trial scam!


Shimmers Appear!



A new way to steal payment information is called "shimming." Scammers insert a shim -- a paper-thin, card-sized device with an embedded microchip and flash storage -- into the slot where you enter the chip side of your credit or debit cart. When you insert your card at a gas pump, ATM, or another card reader, it copies and saves your payment information. Then, scammers return with a special card that collects the stolen information, such as your PIN and card number. They use this information to make purchases with your account information.

View the BBB's article on Shimmers to keep yourself protected!



Watch out for Vacation Rental Scams



There are plenty of us still running around trying to book a last minute vacation and scammers know it. Some scammers start with real vacation rental listings. Then they take off the owner's contact information, put in their own, and place the new listing on a different site — though they might continue to use the name of the actual owner. In other cases, scammers hijack the email accounts of property owners on reputable vacation rental websites.

But the FTC has a few tips to help you spot those false listings!



Malware in Torrents

windowed Download box


Heimdal security recently did a review of how their users contract malware and found one common cause, Online Pirating. Pirating is the act of illegally downloading any media or software without paying for it. However, through pirating you open yourself up to damaging virus', ransomware, and spyware. Heimdal has some information that may make you rethink getting your favorite movie free.

Check out their article for their findings!



Natural Disaster Relief 



Natural disasters and weather emergencies are in the news. Whether it's the volcanic eruptions in Hawaii and Guatemala or the wildfires in Colorado, it's heartbreaking to see people lose their homes and businesses to the ongoing devastation. But it's despicable when scammers exploit such tragedies to appeal to your sense of generosity.

Check out the FTC's Tip Sheet on how to make sure your money goes where it should.



Have You Been Pwned?

Hacker desk


Recent news of major companies hit by data breaches can cause you to wonder if your information has been compromised. Author and ethical hacker Troy Hunt has created the website to answer that question. Simply enter your email address into this site, and it will tell you whether and where it has been impacted by any breaches.

This is an informational site suggested by the Office of Information Security, and is being provided for general purposes only.  Here is a link to the website: Have I been Pwned?



 Security Tips Archive