Identity Theft

Identity theft is real. You haven’t heard from us in a while because despite the enormous efforts we go to, to protect ourselves from this evil in the world, late last week we became the victims of identity fraud. Someone, or an organised group of someone’s, stole our identities. Not Facebook identities either …. we’re talking about major financial institutions here.

It’s been a difficult weekend and few days with not only sleepless nights (not so much from worry but from being emotionally charged and wired, and from making hours of extremely frustrating phone calls during overseas office hours… i.e. after midnight for us!!), but countless hours of hard, frustrating and boring work.

I’m not going to go into any more details for now because this is an ongoing fraud investigation, but it’s important for me to tell you this as there are loopholes in processes, and evil people constantly searching for both those loop holes and your details.

I feel like I’m forever sharing details about why you should NEVER fill in Facebook (and other) quizzes, and people scoff and say “what’s the harm”. But THIS is the harm. We survived this because we are vigilant about our security and had we not been so “over-careful”, the outcome could well have been very very different.

We could have lost much of what we own, and the fight’s not yet over …. by a long shot. This is going to take months to fix, and we can only pray that we don’t lose anything along the road ahead. In many ways, our lives have been put on hold for the past four days (and nights), and will continue to be to a lesser degree, but for months to come. So please bear with us for a while if we aren’t as attentive as we’d like to be.

There a few things to note about this, as warning to others…

  • There isn’t anything we could have done to avoid this.
  • We were able to limit the damage because we are vigilant (without being paranoid) about keeping passwords secret and highly encrypted.
  • We were able to limit the damage because we read all those boring emails from financial institutions, which showed us (not them) that something was amiss, and we jumped in quickly.
  • We were able to limit the damage because we are vigilant about what we share and engage in.
  • Here are some of the absolute basics on keeping your identity as safe as possible.
    • Understand that everything you share leaves a footprint. Those footprints are gathered and sold… to “honest” advertising companies and crooks alike. Computers collate that information and gather all your details from different places over many years.. decades even. There is a cache of information out there on YOU. You can find it.
      Those “quizzes” you have so much fun with, gather your connections to others, and build your cache. Slowly they work out your school, age, mother’s maiden name and so on. And even if your current security question is not “what’s the name of your first boyfriend?”, in ten years time it might be, and you’ll have forgotten that you answered it somewhere along the line in a game or a conversation. You make yourself a target. You become easy prey… low hanging fruit.
      You might feel “safe” now, but if you share info about who your family are, and your family does the quizzes… well, hopefully you get the picture? You filling out the quiz can cost your family or friend everything they own!

    We’ve been vigilant. Our info caches are all but empty. Yet it didn’t stop the thieves from stealing our identity and passing through some of the major security checks, in big, well known, financial institutions. But they only got so far. Again, this isn’t petty, and it’s not about someone hacking my Facebook account either, or even spamming my friends with false information. This is about gaining access to potentially everything we own.

    PS: please forgive me the next time you do a “quiz” on who you were in another life, what you will look like when you’re old etc, or when you share ANYTHING that says “copy and paste this to your wall…” or “I bet no one will share this!…” etc etc etc… and I am less than kind to you!