Counsel, Division of Consumer & Business Education, FTC
When you travel, have you used your hotel’s Wi-Fi – maybe to pay a few bills or catch up on a report you need to read? You may want to think twice before logging in to accounts over hotel Wi-Fi. Hackers are using security vulnerabilities in hotel Wi-Fi to steal people’s passwords and other sensitive information. Here’s how it works: as a hotel guest, you try to get online using their Wi-Fi network and get a pop-up for a software update. But the network has been compromised. When you click to accept the download, you unknowingly load software designed to damage your computer or steal your information.
During your next hotel stay, consider whether you absolutely must share your login info over the Wi-Fi network. Weigh for yourself whether it’s worth the risk. If you decide to use a public network, take precautions.
“Hello, we have been trying to reach you. This call is officially a final notice from the IRS, Internal Revenue Service. The reason of this call is to inform you that IRS is filing a lawsuit against you.” That was the message on my answering machine when I returned home from work.
Tax identity theft is the theme of the week, but it’s not the only tax scam we’re talking about. Complaints to the FTC about IRS imposter scams have shot up over the last year — by almost 50,000 complaints.
Here’s what happens: You get a call from a scammer pretending to be with the IRS, saying you’ll be arrested if you don’t pay taxes you owe right now. You’re told to wire it or put it on a prepaid debit card. They might threaten to deport you or say you’ll lose your driver’s license. Some even know your Social Security number, and they fake caller ID so you think it really is the IRS calling.
Attorney, Division of Privacy and Identity Protection
FTC blog posts don’t usually come with parental advisory notices, but in the case of Craig Brittain and his now-defunct revenge porn website, isanybodydown.com, we might need to make an exception. Because, in case you missed it: revenge porn.
Sorry, folks, I don’t have any cake to share for this celebration, but don’t let that stop you from participating in Data Privacy Day. There are practical things you can do today, and every day, to protect your personal information. Here are a few scenarios where people may share more information than they intend.
When we think of being connected to the internet, mobile phones, tablets and computers pop to mind. But lots of things are connected these days. Refrigerators, fitness wrist bands, smoke detectors and even light bulbs could have digital sensors that transmit information about you to other objects, databases or people over the internet.
Every year, National Consumer Protection Week (NCPW), encourages people and businesses to learn more about avoiding scams and understanding consumer rights. This year, NCPW takes place March 1-7, 2015. NCPW highlights free resources from government agencies and consumer organizations to help people make smarter buying decisions and spot rip-offs.
Tax season is getting close — and for some people, so is an experience with tax identity theft or IRS imposters. Tax identity theft happens when someone uses your Social Security number to get a tax refund or a job. You usually find out something’s wrong after you file your tax return.
Also, IRS imposters work year-round — posing as the IRS when they call and say you owe taxes. They even threaten to arrest you if you don’t put money on a prepaid debit card and tell them the card number. They might know all or part of your Social Security number, and can fake caller ID information to make it look like it really is the IRS calling. But it’s not. Ever.