Scammers Get Personal Information From Your Phone SIM

Scammers Get Personal Information From Your Phone SIM

Scammers Get Personal Information From Your Phone SIM

Smartphones have become such an integral part of our everyday lives that many users joke their devices have become grafted to their hands. We use them to maintain contact in our work and personal lives, correspond through email and social media, and a bulk of Americans have made the transition to conducting their banking through the use of mobile applications. As developers continue their bottomless pursuit to create an app for everything, more and more of our real, flesh-and-blood lives are being stored on our phones: personal details, account numbers, passwords, and other sensitive information that could be misused if it fell into the wrong hands. That’s why smartphone users have to educate themselves on the specifics of a scam called “SIM card swapping.”

What is SMS?

For many telephone, internet, and smart device developers, SMS (short message service) text messaging is the cornerstone of their services. As of 2010, it was the most utilized service provided by communication companies with 3.5 billion users. It became a vital tool in direct marketing campaigns and remains one of the most popular forms of communication in younger users. Because of the ubiquity of smartphones, many companies that require a two-step authentication process for their users’ security implement SMS as a secure means of accessing information. For example, you attempt to log in to your bank account, correctly entering your username and secure password. It’s not uncommon for banking apps to prompt a second form of verification, so the app tells you it will now be sending a four-digit verification code to your phone that you must enter on the app to confirm that you are who you say you are. The code is sent to your phone via SMS. Once this information is transmitted over SMS, users are often derelict in deleting that information from their devices. This is where users are vulnerable to the scam.

How SIM swap scams work

Smartphone users who have lost their phone or who have been the victim of a theft often have the ability to call their mobile provider and provide their secure information in order to have the provider remotely wipe the SIM card and have that information transferred to another phone. Thieves in search of secure information will use tools like phishing mail campaigns, posing as legitimate companies like insurance and credit card companies to get the victim to willingly hand over identifying information such as date of birth, address, and phone number. Once they have enough identifying information, they will call the victim’s mobile provider and pose as a customer. They claim they’ve lost their phone or their phone was stolen from them. Then, using the victim’s identifying information, they will request that the mobile provider remotely wipe their old SIM card and rewrite it to the SIM card in their new device. Just like that, the thief has any and all information that has ever been transmitted via SMS text. This leaves accounts, email inboxes, and secure information vulnerable to fraud. “A high proportion of banking customers now have mobile phone numbers linked with their accounts,” fraud prevention consultant, Emma Mohan-Satta, told Digital Trends, “and so this attack is becoming common in some regions where this attack was not previously so common. Unlike mobile malware, SIM fraud attacks are usually aimed at profitable victims who have been specifically targeted through successful social engineering.”

Who is vulnerable?

Anyone who uses their smartphone as part of a two-step authentication is vulnerable to a SIM card swap scam. Once the thief has their hands on your personal information, they can devastate you in minutes by performing bank transfers, rerouting mail, and making purchases in your name. If the SIM card contained any compromising information, such as lewd photos or inappropriate communication with another person, the perpetrators can use that information to blackmail a victim into paying a tidy sum in exchange for the return of the compromising data. A victim named Tina told Motherboard, “This just happened to me over the weekend. I lost service late Saturday night and assumed it was an issue with my always buggy iPhone. Then on Sunday morning my husband got a text from T-Mobile saying that a line on our phone plan had been cancelled (mine) and i soon discovered that $1200 had wired out of my bank account to someone in [redacted] with my same last name.”

While the cost to a single individual can be devastating, a sophisticated thief can do even more to topple a business like a house of cards. It’s common practice for some types of employers to issue their employees a company cell phone to facilitate business, and in this day and age, that almost certainly means a smart phone. Correspondence between coworkers, appointments, account numbers, and sensitive company information can be exposed and exploited for gain. Companies that carry high financial sums in their accounts can be ruined before they even realize there’s a problem.

How to protect yourself

Dependence on smart phones to facilitate two-step authentication plagues many users throughout the country who enjoy the convenience of verifying their identity through SMS. Luckily, tech sites like Motherboard recommend a few ways you can protect your identity and your monies.

Beef up account security

Many major cell phone service providers are developing new methods of two-step authentication in light of the rise of SIM card swap scams. Many offer their customers the option to set up a secure PIN for their account, completely separate from the login information used to access their account. The PIN is used as a primary verification feature specifically for when customers call into the support center for SIM card-related issues. Previously, many providers opted for a security question for this type of authentication, but the answers to these security questions can often be found on a victim’s social media, such as, “Which high school did you attend?” This way, the PIN is never transmitted through SMS text messaging, and no personal information from a social media profile can be used against them.

Don’t link your number to your online accounts

Once a thief has access to your account, they can easily reset your password and other authentication methods, making it very difficult to quash the problem. Instead of linking your mobile cell phone to your accounts, you can choose a different sort of number, such as a Google Voice number.

Many individuals and companies bypass security measures for a number of reasons, such as lack of time, interest, or the mere belief that they could never be the victim of a SIM card swapping scam. The reality is that it can happen to anyone, and there’s no shortage of victims for scammers. Users who practice their due-diligence can build a security to block them out. When the scammer hits this wall, they simply move on to the next target. Educate yourself and ensure that target isn’t you.

Carie McMichael is the Communication and Media Specialist for Lauth Investigations International. For more information on investigation topics, missing persons, and corporate solutions, please visit our website.

 

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ShutDown: Consumer Fraud Investigations Halted

ShutDown: Consumer Fraud Investigations Halted

ShutDown: Consumer Fraud Investigations Halted

The United States government has been shut down for almost four weeks, sending shockwaves throughout a nation already gripped by tumultuous politics and controversial issues. In addition to institutions like the National Parks System, and the National Institute of Health, all federal employees have currently been laid off from duty, and a majority of their services suspended. The ripple effect is dizzying, with many of the governments services being on hold for the duration of the shutdown. Many consumers across the country are not aware of the shutdown’s impact on some of our nation’s best departments, so you can imagine their shock when they phoned to report a consumer complaint, and were told the government couldn’t help them.

When running normally, the government requires a wealth of quality communication to run smoothly. As many federal employees remain on furlough, therefore not being compensated, everyone’s level of communication with one another is atypical and—as many federal employees are called in without pay—constantly breaking down. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is the federal agency that fields the influx of consumer complaints. A consumer submits their complaint about a business or financial entity to the CFPB, which is reviewed. According to the CFPB, after the complaint is reviewed, “We’ll forward your complaint and any documents you provide to the company and work to get a response from them. If we find that another government agency would be better able to assist, we will forward your complaint to them and let you know.” The CFPB remains in operation and was not effected by the shutdown, but if the agency is ill-equipped to deal with the complaint, they may never get off the ground, as the appropriate department might be effected by the shutdown. This leaves many consumers displaced when it comes to voicing their concerns about products and services.

la-fi-lazarus-fcc-robocalls-20160729-snapThis suspension of protection services has allowed the beast of robo-calls to fester and become feral, as consumers cannot block or report harassing robo-calls. They’re left screaming into the void. Alex Quilici, the chief executive of YouMail—a smartphone application that helps consumers block robo-calls—describes it, “It’s a neighborhood with no police on the beat.” YouMail estimated, just last month, there were 5 billion robo-calls made, and 50% of calls made in early 2019 could be coming from scammers and robots attempting to fraudulently obtain your information. These horrifying statistics are the codas for a chorus of federal employees who are aware of the scope of the problem, like Jessica Rosenworcel, the Federal Communications Commission Commissioner, “The number of robo-calls consumers are receiving is insane. The problem just keeps growing. Shutting down the government is not going to help.” As of this moment, there is no one to administrate the “Do Not Call” list, the national registry in which consumers can ask specific companies not to contact them.

The Federal Communications Commission is just one of many threads woven into the Federal Trade Commission. Another voiceless victim of the shutdown is the victim of identity fraud. Louette Duvall is one of these victims. Not long after the holidays were over, Duvall’s car was pilfered by thieves while she was at her job. They made off with her purse, her briefcase, and a wealth of identifying information that amounted to a scammer’s treasure trove. Fraudulent charges started rolling in as she scrambled to alert all of her creditors and financial institutions that she had been robbed. She began calculating the full scope of the theft’s ramifications: New checkbooks ordered, extravagant items ordered in her name, new credit cards, the list goes on and on. When she called the Federal Trade Commission to let them know her identity had been stolen, she was told they could not help her due to the government shutdown. FTC data prior to the shutdown stated that the agency received thousands of calls a day regarding identity theft alone. That’s thousands of crimes going uninvestigated every day, a Washington Post reporter pointed out when they became a victim as well. Not only are new crimes going unreported, but investigative resources are also frozen. The Consumer Sentinel Network helps investigators track the movement of identity theft and related frauds to build cases against the perpetrators, and it remains down as of day 26 of the longest government shutdown in history. At a minimum, the FTC is still allowing individuals to file complaints so that they be issued an affidavit for their creditors’ purposes.

News coverage of the shutdown has attempted to sharpen the big picture for Americans when it comes to the ripple effect of the government shutdown. While many federal agencies might be unable to assist consumers with complaints, there is recourse for consumers experiencing the myriad of issues helmed by the Federal Trade Commission. There are online, step-by-step resources for obtaining documentation to dispute fraudulent charges and claims. Consumers can also retain the services of a private investigator. One of the most beneficial aspects of hiring a private investigator is that they are the top of the chain of command in their firm. They are the ones calling the shots in any investigation, not a supervisor nor a superior. They will represent your interests and your interests alone. As is the case with many frauds and thefts, perpetrators tend to either operate remotely, or move quickly to evade law enforcement. Acting independently, private investigators will be able to move as fluidly as a scammer, crossing jurisdictional boundaries with little to no red tape. Statistics surrounding fraud indicate that many federal investigators in charge of tracking down scammers and thieves are inundated with a never-ending stream of complaints. This means their attention can be divided over and over again across a heavy caseload. A typical private investigator only handles between 3-4 cases at a time, meaning your case can be a priority for them and not just another file in a drawer.

Political pundits and talking heads don’t project a sunny forecast when it comes to the shutdown—no end in sight. As the shutdown enters its 27th day, many Americans who have been the victims of consumer fraud and identity theft who do not yet know the full scope of the shutdown’s impact will receive an ugly surprise when they turn to the federal government for help. While the government gets its house in order, know that there are options for victims of consumer and identity fraud. Consult a private investigator today to learn how their specific skill set, experience, and independence can help you get right the ship when it comes to fraud.

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Naptown Sleuths: Being a PI in Indianapolis

Naptown Sleuths: Being a PI in Indianapolis

indianapolis indianaIndianapolis, Indiana is home to many impressive things. The city of over 800,000 is most famous throughout the country as home to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the site of the Indianapolis 500. In addition to a rich visual and performing arts culture, it’s also home to the nation’s largest children’s museum. Families across the United States cheer for one of two major sports franchises based in Indianapolis: the NBA’s Indiana Pacers, and the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts. It’s also home to one of the country’s best private investigators.

Family-owned and operated for more than 30 years, Lauth Investigations International has specialized in complex corporate, financial, and private investigations worldwide. It is one of many private investigation firms based in Indiana’s capital. Given recent crime data, Indianapolis is a city where a well of clientele may never run dry. One of the areas of criminal investigation most associated with private investigators is missing persons and violent crime, so it’s no a wonder why so many private investigators have set up shop in Indianapolis, with violent crime on the rise.

Relative to its size and population, Indianapolis is comparable to Portland, Oregon or Charlotte, North Carolina. Portland has a crime rate of 227 per every 100,000 people, which is lower than the national average crime rate. North Carolina experiences a higher than average crime rate of 441 per every 100,000 people. As of 2016, Indianapolis’ reported crime rate was 823.2 per every 100,000 people. A CBS News report ranking dangerous cities placed Indianapolis as the 12th in the nation, citing the violent crime rate at more than three times the national average.

News media is saturated with headlines concerning violent crimes committed against Hoosiers, so it was a surprise to most when the FBI reported crime was actually down 10% from 2016 to 2017, especially burglaries and robberies which were down 17%. Violence—especially gun violence—however, is climbing. As of October 1st, 2018, the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department had investigated 127 homicides and 109 murders, with 12% of those cases attributed to robbery. The recent murder of Tykece Mike-Jones is a tragic example. He was killed over a cell phone he was attempting to sell to a person he contacted through the internet—another in a string of killings IMPD has been putting on blast to warn citizens. According to the FBI, 2017 was the third record-breaking year for crime statistics in Indianapolis, and stats from the first half of this year have projected 2018 will be no different. Law enforcement attributes the overall drop in crime to the increased ubiquity of surveillance cameras in the metropolitan area.

human traffickingFirms like Lauth Investigations International can assist in many types of criminal investigation. Just as in the case of violent crimes, private investigators combine the skills of law enforcement and the autonomy of a private citizen to conduct concurrent or independent investigations into a person who vanishes under any circumstances. But not all missing persons cases are the result of a person meeting a violent end. As “the crossroads of America,” Indianapolis experiences a moderate to high level of human trafficking. One of the most complex issues in human trafficking is tracking traffickers across multiple jurisdictions as they transport victims from city to city. Law enforcement can often be handcuffed by jurisdictional issues, but private investigators use their autonomy to pole vault over this red tape in pursuit of leads that might otherwise go cold. Due to his experience in complex missing persons investigations, private investigator, Thomas Lauth has worked with Interpol, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. State Department, the U.S. Consulate and other foreign embassies on a myriad of cases, including human trafficking.

Indianapolis private investigators are not limited to cases of violent crime and missing persons, however. Every major metropolitan area will always have cases dealing with infidelity or child custody, but private investigators based in Indianapolis have ample opportunity to service local businesses with their skill-set. Indianapolis is home to a diversified body of businesses, but its five top industries are:

  • Finance
  • Insurance
  • Real estate
  • Rental
  • Leasing

Many business owners—especially small business owners—often are not aware of how a private investigator’s services can protect, or even save, their companies. Every business needs valued employees, and finding the right person can often be an arduous task. The candidate might be qualified, but how much about their record can be independently verified? Hiring a private investigator to do background checks for employees will ensure that any verification of their qualifications will be vetted. In the wake of the #MeToo movement, many employers are making independent background checks a regular step of their hiring process in order to weed out potential predators in their workforce. All types of business can experience the full spectrum of employee theft (from vanishing office supplies to full-on embezzlement), violation of non-compete agreements, and offenses under the umbrella of employee malingering, including FMLA abuse. The independent involvement of a private investigator in the investigation of any employee misconduct will lay a strong foundation for any HR or legal consequences, ensuring that the investigation is thorough and objective from beginning to end. Kristen Justis, the Managing Director of Client Relations for Lauth Investigations International, commented on the role Lauth can play in bolstering local business, “We have a wealth of opportunities to help private citizens every day. We help frantic parents find their missing child, or put a spouse’s suspicions of infidelity at ease, but those are the cases that sensationalize this industry. Many business owners are not aware of how the services we offer can go a long way towards extending the longevity of their businesses.”

Every major industry operating in Indianapolis can rely on the services of a private investigator to protect their business—not just from its own workforce, but potential consumers as well. Finance, insurance, and real estate of all kinds can benefit from a comprehensive vetting of a consumer after their request for services. Financial institutions and insurance brokers may check a consumer’s credit, but a full background check on an applicant can sharpen the big picture when making a cost-benefit analysis regarding any transaction. In the housing industry, any landlord renting or leasing their property can be fully informed about their tenants when they employ a private investigator to run a background check. An analysis of Indianapolis’s economy by the Indianapolis Business Journal concluded that the apartment booms the city experienced were driven largely by empty-nesters and childless millennials, projecting that it would only continue to grow.

Indianapolis already has a national economical reputation for developing and sustaining niche markets, such as the market around motorsports and auto-racing. As the metropolis continues to grow in population and economy, so will the opportunities for Indy-based private investigators to support their community.

Carie McMichael is the Communications and Media Specialist for Lauth Investigations International. She regularly writes on missing person and investigation topics. For more information, please visit our website. 

A DIVERSE BOARD COULD HAVE PROTECTED THERANOS

A DIVERSE BOARD COULD HAVE PROTECTED THERANOS

theranos-elizabeth-holmes-01
Elizabeth Holmes was once the shooting star of Silicon Valley. With a lifelong hatred of needles, she set out to turn the world of healthcare on its ear by developing a more efficient and inexpensive way to draw and test blood in order to screen for serious diseases. In a world where access to affordable healthcare is a hot-button issue, Holmes was slated to become a revolutionary of her own making, with
Forbes magazine dubbing her the “youngest self-made woman billionaire.” Now, Holmes is a pariah in Silicon Valley and heads are left spinning in the wake of the Securities and Exchanges Commission having issued a 24-page document revealing just how her duplicity left investors in Theranos’ research out $9 billion dollars.

To litigators and legal commentators, Holmes’ fall from grace is a familiar narrative. Intention to defraud aside, they say the roads in Silicon Valley are paved with ambitious young entrepreneurs who are more than willing to stretch the truth in order to sell their business. They have the determination to succeed and the naivety their deception will be forgiven once their investors are flush with wealth from returns. Since this has happened before and will likely happen again, how was Holmes able to mislead investors under the radar of Theranos’ board of directors? A breakdown of the board’s composition might hold the answer.

Prior to the release of the SEC complaint, the members of the Theranos board of directors had impressive backgrounds that might leave little doubt in their abilities to supervise the good of the company. There were former politicians such as U.S. senators and former cabinet members, who dealt with high-stakes situations every day in their capacities. There were former executives with previous experience in making decisions and placing trust in competent individuals. But despite their differences in resume, they all had one glaring similarity: They were all white men, over the age of 65. Research has shown while their backgrounds might have been impressive, their homogenous nature may have played a huge role in preventing them from identifying Holmes’ fraud before it was too late.

Diversity in Tech 2
According to
Prof. Andras Tilcsik, who holds the Canada Research Chair in strategy, organizations, and society at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, diverse boards are what prevent problems in large companies, “Companies with more gender diversity on their boards, for example, are less likely to reissue financial statements because of error or fraud. Diverse groups also tend to consider more factors when making a decision. Racially mixed juries deliberate longer, share more information, discuss a wider range of relevant factors and even make fewer mistakes when recalling facts about a case. Ironically, lab experiments show that while homogeneous groups do less well on complex tasks, they report feeling more confident about their decisions.” What the research is telling us is this: The more a person looks like us, the more we are willing to trust them. The attention to detail that might have been shown by a more outwardly diverse board was not shown by the Theranos board of directors in the case of Elizabeth Holmes. The similarities shared between members of the Theranos board likely created a false sense of security and allowed Holmes’ deceptions to go unnoticed.

 

Diversity in expertise prevents boards from becoming too comfortable with business practices and makes them open to new ideas. Given the research on homogenized groups, it is reasonable to think this group of white men with an average age of 76 may never have questioned the veracity of Holmes’ research and her promises to deliver the next big thing in medical technology. This has happened before and is likely to happen again, because while the source of the fraud is often dealt with and forgotten, there is no examination of how board composition can enable fraud.

Carie McMichael is the Communications and Media Specialist for Lauth Investigations International, writing about investigative topics such as missing persons and corporate investigations. To learn more about what we do, please visit our website.