Posted on January 2nd, 2019
Happy new year everyone! What better way to start off than to remove your personal details from the internet and lock down your credit? The latest version of my free workbook is now available at the following link:
Several new sites added
Several dead sites removed
Three service links updated
Top 10 list added
Dates with every update. Search “January 2019”
Posted on September 28th, 2018
Over the past five years, I have published numerous posts identifying the importance of a credit freeze. A credit freeze simply allows an individual to control how a U.S. consumer reporting agency is able to sell his or her data. This applies to SIX independent credit bureaus. The credit freeze locks the data at the consumer reporting agency until an individual gives permission for the release of the data. Basically, if your information stored by the credit reporting bureaus is not available, no institution will allow the creation of a new account with your identity. This means no credit cards, bank accounts, or loans will be approved in your name. In many cases if someone tries to use your identity but cannot open any new services, they will find someone else to exploit. I can think of no better motivation to freeze your credit than knowing that no one can open new lines of credit in your name. This does NOT affect your current accounts or credit score. A credit freeze also provides a great layer of privacy protection.
Now that credit reports are free due to a new federal law (https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/senate-bill/2155), I feel it is time to update the procedures for viewing your credit report and then freezing it in all possible locations.
First, I recommend obtaining your entire credit report from Equifax at https://www.annualcreditreport.com. This free report should be used to identify any unknown uses of your identity. If you do not want to submit the request online, you can use the form at https://www.annualcreditreport.com/manualRequestForm.action to mail in the submission.
Next, submit a credit freeze at the “big three” credit bureaus via their online submission options, telephone, or postal mail at the following resources.
By phone: 800-685-1111
By Mail: Equifax Security Freeze
P.O. Box 105788
Atlanta, Georgia 30348-5788
By phone: 888-397-3742
By Mail: Experian Security Freeze
P.O. Box 9554, Allen, TX 75013
By Phone: 888-909-8872
By Mail: TransUnion LLC
P.O. Box 2000 Chester, PA 19016
Be sure to properly store the PIN provided to you (usually sent via mail). You will need this to un-freeze your credit if desired. Next, submit a freeze request to the “small three” credit bureaus at the following resources.
By Phone: 800-540-2505
By Mail: Innovis Consumer Assistance
PO Box 26, Pittsburgh, PA, 15230-0026
By Phone: 800-887-7652
By Mail: Chex Systems, Inc. Attn: Security Freeze Department
7805 Hudson Road, Suite 100, Woodbury, MN 55125
By Phone: 866-349-5355
By Mail: NCTUE Security Freeze
P.O. Box 105561, Atlanta, GA 30348
Next, navigate to https://www.optoutprescreen.com/ and request to be placed on the Opt-Out list to stop receiving unsolicited credit and insurance offers.
After you have received confirmation that the six credit bureaus have placed a freeze on your credit, navigate back to https://www.annualcreditreport.com and request your free credit report from Experian. This report should acknowledge that a freeze is successfully in place. In a few months, repeat the process for Transunion. You are allowed one free report from each of the three providers every year.
I cannot stress the importance of a credit freeze enough. Anyone with a SSN should submit one right away. The new federal law also mandates that any child with a SSN under the age of 16 can also have a free credit freeze. I highly recommend locking down the entire family.
Posted on September 11th, 2018
I have always encouraged readers and attendees of my live events to obtain a credit freeze (original 2016 tutorial). It is one of the most vital steps you can take toward protecting yourself from identity theft. Previously, the cost was $10 per credit bureau for every freeze/unfreeze, but there were ways around that. I am thrilled to report that beginning September 21, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion must each set up a webpage for requesting fraud alerts and credit freezes at no cost. Further, the law also provides additional ID theft protections to minors. Currently, some state laws allow you to freeze a child’s credit file, while others do not. Starting September 21, no matter where you live you’ll be able to get a free credit freeze for kids under 16 years old.
Although it is not yet time for the law to enforce these free credit freezes, it appears that all five credit bureaus are now offering free online credit freezes. Here are the links to get you started.
I firmly believe that every citizen with a Social Security Number should have a credit freeze in place.
Posted on May 24th, 2018
Thanks to IntelTechniques Forum members rgy3jMoKlHLr62gazNWtketr7, gustov1, jd443, jsantos, dingo, and others, I pushed out a substantial update to the free Online Data Removal Workbook. It can be downloaded here:
Added several new removal options
Updated several removal options
Removed most outdated content (some could pop back up)
Changed to 8.5 x 11 for easier printing/distribution
Removed bounding boxes to better compress content
HUGE thanks to those helping keep this as updated as possible. I see it as a living document that will change monthly. I’m sure there are still errors and omissions, but getting closer. Feel free to distribute.
Posted on April 26th, 2018
During my live Cyber Keynotes, I discuss the ways that I would steal your online accounts, identify your recycled passwords, and craft and spoof unique phishing emails to infect your company’s network. Many of my audiences assume that all “hacking” occurs through large servers and hidden firewalls. In reality, I would prefer to attack you the easiest way possible. One abundant option is to use the public information you share on social networks against you. Consider the following selection of “security questions” required in order to create an Apple account.
The idea is that you choose a question, provide the answer to Apple, and then confirm the answer to them if you ever get locked out of your account. The reality is that anyone who can identify these answers online is one step closer to accessing your account. If you chose one of these options and provide a correct answer, and also happen to be one of 4 million people that take online quizzes at the Good Old Days Facebook page, I might be able to identify your answers quickly. Below are a handful of recent quizzes where people can share some fairly personal details.
If those did not help me, I would look on other Facebook pages to find the following posts where people respond with their personal answers.
The lesson here, which will be obvious to many, is to never provide real information within online security question challenges. When a service forces you to provide your first car, give them an answer completely unrelated to vehicles. Be sure to document this within your password manager.
On the OSINT side, we can get a bit creepy with the following searches on Facebook. The first identifies every user that has “liked” the Good Old Days Facebook page:
Next, we can isolate our query to display comments where a person replied “German shepherd” on a post from this same Facebook page:
The results include the following redacted post in response to “What was your first pet’s name?”
On the defense side, please revisit your security questions within your important online accounts. If the answers match the questions, and the details could be found online, change them immediately. On the offense side of the house, these online posts can provide valuable data for your investigations.
Posted on September 9th, 2017
EPISODE 044: The Equifax Debacle
This week we interrupt our scheduled release to talk about the Equifax breach and our recommended actions.
Listen to all episodes at https://inteltechniques.com/podcast.html
Equifax Victim Check:
Credit Freeze Guide:
The Complete Privacy and Security Desk Reference
Please submit your listener questions to us at https://inteltechniques.com/podcast.html
Posted on May 5th, 2017
Many months ago, the OSINT and Privacy communities were buzzing about FamilyTreeNow. This site possessed highly accurate details about most Americans, including home address, telephone numbers, and family members. It allowed an opt-out process for removal of personal data, but most people did not make the effort. Recently, a site that appears to offer a clone of that data has emerged at TruePeopleSearch.com. Even more interesting, the data that was removed from FamilyTreeNow is still present in TruePeopleSearch. I had already removed my personal details from a previous home address from FamilyTreeNow several months ago. The first search for my name on TruePeopleSearch a week ago revealed the same two previously removed records live on this site. This was quite surprising, and it appears extremely likely that the data source for these two sites is the same. I am now curious of how many more sites like these will continue to appear online.
If you would like to search for personal records, navigate to https://www.truepeoplesearch.com
If you would like to remove your records, navigate to https://www.truepeoplesearch.com/removal
Posted on February 28th, 2017
This week, we discuss how we use YubiKeys as part of our daily digital security routine. We also welcome Yubico as our first sponsor.
Listen now at https://inteltechniques.com/podcast.html
TOPG Email Comparison
YubiKey White Papers:
YubiKey Personalization Tool:
YubiKey Static Password Guide:
The Complete Privacy and Security Desk Reference
Please submit your listener questions to us at https://inteltechniques.com/podcast.html
Posted on November 19th, 2016
In 2011, I first posted about the importance of a credit freeze. I believe that there is an even greater need today to protect your credit report. The following update includes a fourth service that should be contacted as well as mailing and website address updates. This information should replace the details in the books. A complete PDF guide to a credit freeze is absolutely free after signing up for my newsletter HERE.
People often ask me about paid services such as Lifelock and Identity Guard, and how effective they are at protecting your identity. These services can be very effective, but you pay quite a premium for that protection. Personally, I simply freeze my credit. It’s easy, usually free, and reversible. What is all this frozen credit nonsense? Wikipedia says it best:
“A credit freeze, also known as a credit report freeze, a credit report lock down, a credit lock down, a credit lock or a security freeze, allows an individual to control how a U.S. consumer reporting agency (also known as credit bureau: Equifax, Experian, TransUnion) is able to sell his or her data. The credit freeze locks the data at the consumer reporting agency until an individual gives permission for the release of the data.”
Basically, if your information stored by the four credit reporting bureaus is not available, no institution will allow the creation of a new account to your identity. No credit cards, bank accounts, etc. If someone decides to use your identity, but cannot open any new services, they will find someone else to exploit. I can think of no better motivation to freeze your credit than knowing that no one, even yourself, can open new lines of credit in your name. This does NOT affect your current accounts or credit score and are simple to suspend when needed.
Credit freezes are extremely easy today thanks to State laws that mandate the credit bureaus cooperation. I will walk you through the process.
The first step will determine whether your credit freeze will cost you any money. The fee for the freeze is $10 for each of the four bureaus ($40). While this is well worth the protection, most states have a law that entitles identity theft victims a waiver of this fee. There is a great comparison of state laws on this at THIS LINK, and an interactive tutorial at THIS LINK. Currently, each of the four credit bureaus voluntarily waive this fee for victims of identity theft. A large portion of my readers have had some type of fraudulent financial activity. This may be an unlawful charge to a debit or credit card, or something more serious such as someone opening an account in your name. If you have had any fraudulent charges or activity, contact your local police to obtain a police report. Many departments, such as mine, have a form that the victim completes which becomes the report. Request a copy when complete including a case number.
Complete four packets that will be mailed certified mail. One will go to each of the four credit bureaus. Each packet will include the following.
A letter requesting the credit freeze. This letter should include the following information.
Social Security Number
Date of Birth
The following is an example:
Fraud Victim Assistance Department
P.O. Box 2000
Chester, PA 19022-2000
January 1, 2016
To whom it may concern,
Please accept this letter as an official request for a Security Freeze on my TransUnion credit file. Per your instructions, I have included a photocopy of my driver’s license and recent pay documentation. Below are my details.
John Patrick Doe
1234 Main Street
Chicago, IL 61234
December 1, 1980
I further request waiver of any fees due to my recent status as an identity theft victim in the State of Illinois. I have attached a photocopy of my police report.
Include a copy of your police report if you have one. If you do not have a police report, and do not want the $40 fee waived, you can complete the entire process online at the EACH following three sites.
Enclose a copy of your valid driver’s license or State ID, and a copy of pay stub, utility bill, insurance statement, or another official document that proves your identity. I made a copy of my license and a pay stub, and included this copy to each of the four requests.
These four packets will be addressed to:
Equifax Security Freeze
PO Box 105788
Atlanta, GA 30348
Experian Security Freeze
PO Box 9554
Allen, TX 75013
P.O. Box 2000
Chester, PA 19022-2000
Innovis Consumer Assistance
PO Box 26
Pittsburgh, PA 15230-0026
Next, I recommend obtaining a copy of your current credit report, before it is frozen, at http://annualcreditreport.com. Look over this closely, and make sure everything is accurate.
Within a few weeks, sometimes sooner, you will receive a package from each of these bureaus confirming your credit freeze. They will also include a PIN number that you need to keep. This number will be required if you ever want to temporarily or permanently reverse the credit freeze.
If you want to reverse the credit freeze, you can do this online at the above websites. There will be a $10 fee per agency to do this. If you want this fee waived, you need to submit the request via mail again and include another copy of the police report. A temporary un-freeze would be done in the case that you want to establish new credit such as a credit card or loan. Be sure to generate this temporary reversal prior to the loan request, otherwise your loan may be denied. A permanent reversal will completely stop the freeze,and your account will be back to normal. Again, there is that $10 fee each time, which can be waived with a police report.
Unless you are constantly opening new lines of credit or use your credit to purchase real estate often, I highly recommend a credit freeze. It is simply the most effective way of stopping people from using your identity for financial gain. Lately, people are reporting that their under-age children are becoming ID theft victims. This freeze could apply to them as well. This will NOT stop someone from stealing your current credit card numbers. I have tips for that coming soon.
Posted on October 9th, 2016
At a recent cyber-crime keynote, I held a 30 minute Q & A session with the audience. The question that sparked the most conversation was “What should I do the moment I find out I am the victim of identity theft?” There are millions of new victims of the identity theft every year. From stolen credit cards to fraudulently filed tax returns, a large portion of U.S. citizens are trying to figure out how to repair the damage. To help, the Federal Trade Commission has created a nice tool to work through the recovery process at IdentityTheft.gov.
The site will walk you through a step-by-step approach to report and repair your damage. There are different paths depending on the type of identity theft you have been subjected to. Below is a snapshot of the Federal Trade Commission’s recovery process.
Everyone should review the site. Even if you are not currently a victim of identity theft, spend a few minutes reviewing the site. A review now can help you become more aware of the problem and help you understand what immediate steps you should take if this happens to you.