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Terrifying video on identity theft: dramatic or accurate?

After watching a pretty terrifying video on how easy it is to be the victim of identity theft, we wondered if it was accurate. Turns out it is even easier than this video portrays. Yikes!

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Identity theft video from lobbyists

Febelfin is a banking lobby in Belgium, representing the interests of small to large banks in the nation, and recently has set out to tackle the problem of identity theft. “Would you panic while internet crooks took over your life?” the company asks. “We put one real victim through the test. We scared the hell out of him by gradually taking over his life. His freaked out reactions, should urge people to be very vigilant and never to share personal and banking information by mail or by telephone.”

The video ends with directions to go learn more tips for safe internet banking at SafeInternetBanking.be.

So is it overly dramatic or accurate?

We all know that identity theft is serious, particularly as the world shifts to internet banking and alternative banking options like PayPal, but we wondered if this video which is said to be real is just entertaining and overly dramatic, or is this an accurate dramatization of identity theft.

For the answers, we asked PwnedList Co-Founder, Steve Thomas to asses the video. He explains that in the video the hacker first engaged in “catfishing” on Facebook and sending a successful phishing email for banking credentials to pull off the identity theft.

Thomas said, “The only questionable piece of information was the bank he used, which I guess someone might post that on Facebook, something like “I hate Bank of America!”, but people rarely talk about banks on facebook. The hacker could have guessed and tried a few different banks, though.”

It makes sense given that they are in Belgium, so perhaps their banking options are more limited than here in North America.

But how did they get someone to give bank credentials?

Thomas explains, “the phishing e-mail basically read (pardon my complete lack of knowledge of the German language) ‘Click here,’ which I’m guessing redirected to a website that looked identical to his bank, where he logged in, allowing his credentials to be stolen. Phishing e-mails do work, but they have been around for a long time, and some e-mail providers (Gmail) identify phishing e-mails to varying degrees of success. Banks also are well aware of what phishing campaigns are going on and can shut down campaigns to varying degrees.”

That sounds hopeful, right? Thomas told AGBeat that “It’s actually easier to get information about a person than the video makes it appear (at least in the US).” Additionally, Thomas notes, “The hacker stole someone’s identity and made a fraudulent purchase. This happens every day, with even less effort. Some banks try to prevent this with smart authentication (geolocation, identifying a new device and requiring two factor authentication, etc) but those are easy enough to get around.”

Uh oh.

“I routinely find out where someone lives, who they are friends with, where they have worked, where they work now, and what job they have without ever needing to friend them on Facebook,” Thomas stated. “The catfishing added some comedy, but was unnecessary.”

Privacy controls are not enough

What can someone do to protect themselves from catfishing damaging them? Thomas recommends the following steps be taken:

  1. Remove information about you that you don’t want to be public from Facebook. Assume anything you have ever put into Facebook is public. Privacy controls are not enough.
  2. Probably a bad idea to announce what bank you use on any social website. Same goes for when you leave for vacation or ‘check-in’ away from home (see pleaserobme.com for examples on how ‘check-ins’ make you vulnerable).
  3. Google yourself. Identify the websites that have information on you. Contact them to remove the information (they might if you ask nicely).

And what can someone do to protect themselves from phishing? Thomas suggests:

  1. Use an e-mail provider that identifies phishing attempts. Most major providers do, I know Gmail does.
  2. Don’t click links in e-mails that are not trusted. If someone is directing you to a website, type it in manually, so you know where you are going.
  3. Make sure you use HTTPS and check the SSL certifications (though this can be broken too, so don’t just rely on this).
  4. If you ever attempt to login to your bank account, but the website won’t let you in (and you know you are using the right password), then congratulations! You are most likely a victim of phishing. You need to know how to contact your bank properly to change your password and lock down your account.
  5. In general, make a plan right now for when a hacker steals your credentials. It is no longer an ‘if’, it’s a ‘when’.

How common is this?

Just in the AG offices alone, 75 percent of us have had our identities stolen in one way or another and had money drained from accounts. That’s a pretty substantial number, especially in light of our team being comprised of mostly tech savvy people that are fully aware of catfishing and phishing – it happens to the best of us.

Take Thomas’ advice seriously, because according to him, the video isn’t a dramatization and it is actually easier to get your information than they lay out in the video.

Tech News

Google is giving back some privacy control? (You read that right)

(TECH NEWS) In a bizarre twist, Google is giving you the option to opt out of data collection – for real this time.

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Open laptop on desk, open to map privacy options

It’s strange to hear “Google” and “privacy” in the same sentence without “concerns” following along, yet here we are. In a twist that’s definitely not related to various controversies involving the tech company, Google is giving back some control over data sharing—even if it isn’t much.

Starting soon, you will be able to opt out of Google’s data-reliant “smart” features (Smart Compose and Smart Reply) across the G-Suite of pertinent products: Gmail, Chat, and Meet. Opting out would, in this case, prevent Google from using your data to formulate responses based on your previous activity; it would also turn off the “smart” features.

One might observe that users have had the option to turn off “smart” features before, but doing so didn’t disable Google’s data collection—just the features themselves. For Google to include the option to opt out of data collection completely is relatively unprecedented—and perhaps exactly what people have been clamoring for on the heels of recent lawsuits against the tech giant.

In addition to being able to close off “smart” features, Google will also allow you to opt out of data collection for things like the Google Assistant, Google Maps, and other Google-related services that lean into your Gmail Inbox, Meet, and Chat activity. Since Google knowing what your favorite restaurant is or when to recommend tickets to you can be unnerving, this is a welcome change of pace.

Keep in mind that opting out of data collection for “smart” features will automatically disable other “smart” options from Google, including those Assistant reminders and customized Maps. At the time of this writing, Google has made it clear that you can’t opt out of one and keep the other—while you can go back and toggle on data collection again, you won’t be able to use these features without Google analyzing your Meet, Chat, and Gmail contents and behavior.

It will be interesting to see what the short-term ramifications of this decision are. If Google stops collecting data for a small period of time at your request and then you turn back on the “smart” features that use said data, will the predictive text and suggestions suffer? Only time will tell. For now, keep an eye out for this updated privacy option—it should be rolling out in the next few weeks.

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Tech News

Looking to refresh your virtual rooms? Check out Zoom’s Immersive View

(TECH NEWS) Zoom’s new Immersive View feature will help you feel like you’re back in the workplace or classroom again – or wherever you want to be.

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Zoom's new Immersive View allows users to be creative and place participants on landscapes, like this field of flowers.

If you’re tired of feeling separated from your coworkers, friends, or classmates, Zoom has a new feature that will make you feel like you’re all in the same place once again. At Zoomtopia, Zoom’s annual user conference, the company announced its Immersive View feature that they say will allow for a “more engaging and collaborative way to meet”.

With Immersive View, video participants can all be arranged in a single virtual space. Hosts can choose from one of Zoom’s immersive virtual scenes and embed video participants within that scene.

To make sure your scene is as natural as possible, hosts can move around and resize a participant’s image so they can look like they are sitting on a chair in a classroom or conference room. For added fun, you can even set a custom background. So, if you’d rather be part of the Galactic Senate Chamber, you can create your own scene.

Up to 25 video participants can be in the same virtual space. Any additional people after that will show up as a thumbnail strip on the top of the screen. And, at any time, you can change the view back to Speaker View or Gallery View if you want to.

How to get started with Zoom’s Immersive View
Immersive View is available on Windows and macOS for desktop. By default, all Free and single Pro accounts using Zoom 5.6.3 or higher will have the feature enabled.

To use the feature, first start your Zoom meeting or webinar on your desktop. In the top-right corner, click “View” and select “Immersive View”.

To place participants into the scene, choose between automatically and manually. By choosing automatic, as many participants as the layout will allow will be added to the scene. If you choose manual, you can add and remove participants as you’d like. Since Immersive View will use the first 25 participants, manual works well for larger meetings. If participant No. 26 needs to speak up, you can remove someone and add No. 26 in.

After you’ve made your choice, select one of the provided virtual backgrounds or upload your own image. If you choose to use your own custom background, make sure to follow Zoom’s virtual background specs for the best results.

Finally, click “Start” to launch your scene, and, now, you’re all set!

Those that aren’t using Zoom 5.6.3 or higher will not be able to see the Immersive View. Instead, they will see either the Gallery View or Speaker View with a black background.

Currently, Immersive View isn’t available in breakout rooms yet. Also, recordings of Immersive Views aren’t supported. Depending on your recording settings, recordings will appear in Gallery View or Speaker View.

Considering all the video call fatigue going on right about now, the timing of Zoom’s Immersive View feature couldn’t come at a better time. It will be refreshing to see a video call without just heads inside boxes.

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Tech News

Create a pandemic-friendly sign-in with this touchless technology

(TECH NEWS) In an era where touchless communication is paramount, Wellcome brings touchless employee and visitor sign-in technology to the workplace.

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Logo page for Wellcome, a touchless technology sign-in.

Touchless technology is becoming more and more common these days and for good reasons — health and safety. Due to the COVID pandemic, social distancing is crucial in helping decrease the amount of positive coronavirus cases.

Unfortunately, some work environments require in-person employees, contractors, and visitors. And now, some businesses are even starting to bring more of their workforce back into the office. While we can hopefully assume they all have some safety protocols in place, the front desk interactions haven’t changed much. This makes it difficult to manage and see who’s in and out.

But to fill in that gap, meet Wellcome. Wellcome is a touchless sign-in platform for employees and visitors. According to their website, the app “helps you manage the workplace effectively, making it safe and easy for everyone” who’s in the office.

And the platform does this by implementing the following features in its tool.

Employee Touchless Check-in
By uploading a list of employees to the Admin, employees automatically receive an email with a one-click “Wellcome Pass”. This pass can be added to their Apple or Android digital wallet.

Once at work, employees scan their pass on an iPad at the reception desk. Then, they will see a customizable confirmation screen with the company’s health and safety guidelines messaging. This reminder can help ensure everyone is following the rules and staying safe.

Visitor Touchless Check-in
For visitors without a Wellcome Pass, they can still scan the QR code on the iPad using their device. The QR code will direct them to a customized check-in form where they can select their host and fill out a health questionnaire on their mobile device.

COVID-Safe Visitor Screening
Based on how a visitor answers the health screening questionnaire, it will grant or deny them access to the office. This health COVID screening will help HR managers “protect the office by restricting access to visitors that might be infected.”

Host Notifications
Via email, Slack, and/or SMS, Wellcome will immediately notify the host when they have a visitor and send them the visitor’s contact details. It will also let them know if their visitor was granted or denied access based on the health screening. If a visitor is denied access, the host is instructed to not meet the visitor, but contact them another way.

Contact Tracing
If there is a potential or confirmed COVID-19 case at work, Wellcome makes it easy to identify and notify anyone who may be at risk. To do this, the HR manager just needs to search by a person’s name and date range in the Admin. Search results will pull up anyone that could have come in contact with the infected person.

The Admin will also notify all employees and visitors that need to self-isolate and get tested. If needed, Wellcome also lets you download and submit a tracing report.

Manage Office Capacity
Wellcome tracks workplace capacity and occupancy data to help maintain social distancing. If occupancy reaches the capacity limit, the Admin will be notified to “take steps to reduce occupancy in order to stay within the required limits.”

In the Admin Dashboard, reports are available to view the status of current capacity. It can also predict what the occupancy will be each day so companies can plan ahead.

Book Workdays
Employees have the option to pre-book when they want to come into the office. The app displays how many slots are available for each day, and it can send out a calendar reminder. Through the Admin, HR managers can see who will be coming into the office. This is Wellcome’s other way of making sure capacity limits are always within range.

Also, setting up Wellcome is pretty simple. All you need is an iPad. You install the app on it and leave it at the reception desk for employees and visitors to check-in.

For companies who have employees and visitors in and out of the office. Wellcome does sound appealing, and it looks like they will benefit a great deal from the platform. And, if you’d like to check it out, Wellcome lets you use the app free for 14 days. Afterwards, you can select a plan that works best for you.

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