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Dave Gardner: Email hacks can threaten your credit

New IdentityTheft Scam













David Gardner For the Camera

In the not too recent past, email scams were almost laughable in their clumsiness. If the misspelled words and poor grammar didn’t tip you off, then the request to wire funds to accept a sizable inheritance made it clear.

Now email hacks have morphed into something much more sophisticated and chilling. One criminal hacked into the email of a Boulder man and divined he had an interest in art. The crook also deduced this person had a relationship with a financial firm.

With these two crumbs of knowledge, the criminal produced an invoice from an out-of-state art gallery complete with a picture of the painting. This invoice was forwarded to the financial firm using the compromised email with a direction to send a hefty check to the gallery. Meanwhile the criminal adjusted settings in the victim’s email account to delete any emails from the financial firm, so the victim would be unaware his email had been compromised. In the end, the firm had procedures in place to ferret out this type of fraud and contacted the man, with no money lost.

Another Boulder family received an expensive men’s watch last December. Given that the package was addressed to a woman with no likely gift givers, their suspicion was piqued. She called the number on the return address label and spoke with the manager of a jewelry store in California. The watch had been sold through a third-party internet merchant. He claimed that site had been compromised and emailed her return address labels to get the watch back to the store.

As she was thinking what to do with this watch, she remembered her email had recently been compromised with the password changed three times without her knowledge. She tried to reach the marketplace that sold the watch and after several calls found out that any returns should go directly to the marketplace rather than the seller.

With holidays upon her, she waited to follow through on returning the watch. In early January she went through her email to delete spam, and in the process determined that rules had been put into place to delete email related to the marketplace, the jeweler, the manager of the jeweler, and a new loan company. Once she eliminated these rules, she started seeing loan payment due notices related to the watch.

Now the scam was clear. After hacking into her email, the criminal applied for credit on her behalf on the merchant’s web site. The loan was approved in spite of the victim having her credit frozen, and the proceeds were sent to the scamster. In order for the loan proceeds to be released, a watch (real or more likely fake) was sent to the victim. Meanwhile her email related to this transactionwas being deleted. The final coup for the criminal would have been if she returned the watch, which could then be used to bait a trap for another victim. While no permanent financial damage was done, there were many hours required to recover her credit, aided by her homeowners insurance with identity restoration protection.

The lessons here are many. First, protect your email by putting in place two-factor authentication so a criminal in another location can’t break into it. Next, make sure you monitor your credit regularly and are notified if any party applies for credit in your name. One of your credit cards might offer this service for free, or you can use the reputable site creditkarma.com. Third, put credit freezes on file with all three major bureaus. This Friday it becomes free throughout the country to install and remove a credit freeze, including for minors younger than 16. Finally, contact your homeowners insurance company and see if they have identity repair service available at a nominal fee (we’ve seen $25 a year) so you can have help making all the calls and writing the letters needed if your credit requires repair. 

David Gardner is a certified financial planner with a practice in Boulder County and can be reached with questions at [email protected] or twitter.com/Dave_CFP.



Source: on 2018-09-14 18:07:30

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