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Machado Consulting's News You Can Use

Welcome to our blog where you can find everything from tech-tips to keeping your data secure. Have any questions? We'd love to hear from you!

What is your Identity Worth to You?

Your identity has quite a lot of value, especially in the wrong hands. Security firm ZoneAlarm put together some numbers in 2011 concerning identity fraud, and it even shocked us. Let's talk about a few of these statistics and what it means.

First of all, what shocked us the most is that according to the FTC, in the United States, 9 million individuals have their identities stolen each year. Identity theft is a little different than identity fraud, however. Theft is when personal information is exposed and taken without permission. This is happening all the time by malicious software like spyware, but it can also happen when legitimate websites and services get infiltrated by cybercriminals. If a reputable online store (or even a database for a brick and mortar store) gets hacked into, your personal information can be stolen. That's identity theft.

Identity fraud is when that data is misused for financial gain. This is when things start to get very dangerous. In 2009, $56 billion dollars were accumulated by cyber criminals through identity fraud. The good news is in 2010 that number went down to "only" $37 billion. What does that mean to the average person? On average, victims of identity fraud had $4,841 dollars stolen per victim. Trouble is, the world has had to improve drastically to protect consumers from identity fraud. This means higher costs of doing business which then get reflected on prices of products and services. In other words, because of identity fraud, we all lose.

How does your data get stolen?  There are plenty of ways, but here are a few popular methods:
 

  1. Hackers can pick up credentials via public Wi-Fi and public PCs.
  2. Credit Card Skimming - a process that involves your credit card data being stolen when your credit card is swiped at a standard ATM or credit card terminal.
  3. Selling or discarding used computer equipment that isn't properly wiped can expose personal information.
  4. Hackers can infiltrate networks and databases.
  5. Dumpster diving and paper mail theft.
  6. Malware and viruses
  7. Phishing.


In almost half of reported identity theft cases, the victim knew the criminal.

What do you do if your identity is stolen?

Almost half of all reports of identity frauds are discovered by the user first, although banks and credit card companies have methods in place to stay on top of it as well. If your financial credentials are stolen, you need to contact your bank and/or credit card companies immediately, both by phone and in writing. You'll want to file a police report with details about where your identity was stolen, what you believe was or could have been stolen, and documented proof of the crime.

You don't want to risk identity fraud. Monitor your credit reports closely, shred sensitive mail and documents before throwing them away, and ensure your computers and network are running latest security updates and antivirus, as well as other security measures. For a complete review of your security, contact us at (508) 453-4700 and we will help pinpoint vulnerabilities and fill in the cracks before a costly event occurs.

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Microsoft Excel Tips and Tricks

There are two kinds of Microsoft Excel users in the world: Those who make neat little tables, and those who amaze their colleagues with sophisticated charts, data analysis, and seemingly magical formula and macro tricks. You, obviously, are one of the latter—or are you? Check our list of 11 essential Excel skills to prove it—or discreetly pick up any you might have missed.

Vlookup

Vlookup is the power tool every Excel user should know. It helps you herd data that's scattered across different sheets and workbooks and bring those sheets into a central location to create reports and summaries.

 

Vlookup helps you find information in large data tables such as inventory lists.

Say you work with products in a retail store. Each product typically has a unique inventory number. You can use that as your reference point for Vlookups. The Vlookup formula matches that ID to the corresponding ID in another sheet, so you can pull information like an item description, price, inventory levels and other data points into your current workbook.

Summon the vlookup formula in the formula menu and enter the cell that contains your reference number. Then enter the range of cells in the sheet or workbook from which you need to pull data, the column number for the data point you’re looking for, and either “True” (if you want the closest reference match) or “False” (if you require an exact match).

 

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Craigslist Scam

Internet fraud and scams are the fastest growing crimes in America today. Each day thousands of people fall victim to these scams. The perpetrators of these scams are almost never caught due to a number of legal boundaries authorities are not able to penetrate. One of the most useful and widely used websites ever created is a honeypot for unsuspecting fraud victims.

Craigslist can be used to find anything from appliances to apartments, but be careful, Craigslist is the home of numerous scams. One of the most common scams on Craigslist targets sellers. These scammers will usually target small electronics that are being sold. An unsuspecting person will list an item that they wish to sell. Shortly after listing the item the sell will receive an email or text message from what looks like a potential buyer. This buyer almost always offers the seller a lot more money than they are asking for the item. This should be your first red flag that something is amiss. The buyer will offer you more money with the caveat that you must ship the item, usually to their “granddaughter at college” or something similar. The buyer will offer to pay you using the online service PayPal. PayPal is a legitimate online service used for purchasing goods online without divulging your personal bank information to the third party. However, in this scam the buyer will send an email that looks just like an email one would receive from PayPal. In the email it says that your money will be released into your account when the item is received by the buyer. The email looks very convincing as it will contain your name, email address, phone number, and physical address, all of this information obtained from the scammer through simple Google searches based on any information you have given to them. In the end the unsuspecting victim mails off their iPad or laptop to the “buyer” and receives nothing in return.

When doing any sort of transactions online, the user must be cautious and aware of the sites they are putting their personal and financial information into. As long as you are careful and practice good common sense when dealing with buyers and sellers online, you should be good to go. If you run into any issues, though, Machado Consulting is always just a phone call away!

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Online Job Scams

The job market hasn’t quite bounced back like we expected. It has put increased stress and urgency to find a worthwhile job. This doesn’t mean while in your search you should jump at any opportunity thrown your way. Always be aware of who is replying back stating they need someone just like you; you may be in for an unpleasant surprise.

One scam, involving fake training and a promised job, has emerged due to vulnerability of the unemployed since the recession. Normally, you would think it all sounds too good to be true, but you have bills to pay, right? This has been a problem in 2013 - 2014, and if it stays lucrative for the scammer, there’s no reason for them to disappear either. Scammers will post to Craigslist or other job sites asking to sign up for training, and upon completion, receive a guaranteed job. Do yourself a favor, take the time and research the company you’re about to invest your time into. If it sounds too good to be true, it may be just that. The scammer will ask you for your personal information and then you won’t hear from them again. And as you can see from our article on phishing scams, you do not want all your personal information in the hands of a scammer.

  • Here’s some red flags you should be aware of and what to avoid when job searching online:

  • Background checking services

  • Credit check or credit report

  • Sites where you are directed to enter your resume, bank account or credit card numbers, or other personal information

  • Sites where you are asked to sign up for a "free" trial offer

  • Sites offering fee-based training or education

  • Sites offering opportunities for making money

  • Survey or focus group sites

  • Sites designed to deliver malware or misuse your personal information

Only send information applicable to the job once you can confirm the legitimacy of the company. Always make sure you know 100% where and who you are sending your information to. Even on the job hunt, always stay on your toes! 

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How to Identify a Phishing Scam

Recently there has been a lot of talk about phishing scams. But what are they really? A phishing scam is when someone contacts you for sensitive information supposedly on behalf of a reputable company. For instance, you may receive a phone call or an email from someone claiming to be from a company such as Paypal requesting information about yourself as well as your account in order to continue using their services. The scammers may do this by providing you with a link to a fake website where you are asked to enter the information. They may simply have a form embedded in an email for you to fill out. They may even directly ask for the information via phone or email.

You may be asking yourself, “Why do I care about these phishing scams?” You definitely should not brush them aside. Scammers who successfully receive this information can do a lot of harm to yourself as well as your business. When scammers get a hold of login information to an account (i.e. your online banking account) they will likely first change the password so that you cannot login and change it yourself. They will then take advantage of the access by transferring funds to their own accounts or even making purchases on your behalf using your money. These scammers can even go as far as stealing your identity which gives them endless possibilities. Once a scammer has enough information to steal your identity, they can open bank accounts, credit cards, mortgages, car loans, and many other forms of financing and they will not pay the bills. This means that all of this debt that this scammer is building up in your name, you will have to pay off whether it be monetarily or with jail time.

But how does one tell the difference between a legitimate request for information and a scammer trying to steal your identity? Phishing scams either by phone or email will almost always request sensitive information of some type in some form. These emails will all likely be addressed universally since they are sent to so many people at a time. Most companies, banks, and other financial institutions will not request such information in this manner. An easy way to avoid having this information stolen would be to simply not enter the information. The likelihood of a reputable company requesting information using a mass email blast is highly unlikely. If the company needed to contact you about your account they would address you directly.

If you think you have received a scam email, DO NOT click the links within it, do not supply any of the requested information, do not attempt to contact the sender of the email, do not open any attachments supplied with the email. Give us a call or send the email in a ticket to the Machado Consulting help desk. We can review the email and let you know whether if it is legitimate or a scam. If you think that you may have already supplied information to a scammer please let us know and we can assist you with the necessary steps to protect your account from being compromised.

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