Program Report: Hugh Harris – NC Department of Justice

AS INTERNET SCAMMERS UP THEIR GAMES,STATE DOJ SAYS STICK TO BASICS

Scammers, hackers and trolls are infesting the internet in record numbers and they’re playing at the top of their game.

For illegal profit at your expense, they’re trying to get personal information, including social security numbers … the crown jewels of identity theft. Use lazy passwords, and they’ll crack right in and help themselves.

As Hugh Harris of the state Department of Justice cautioned Rotarians at lunch on Monday, the bad guys know how to spell now. They get the grammar right. They use perfect fake logos and other validating visuals and have even been known to tailor scams with personal information available in the public domain. If you include last year’s data breach at Equifax, more than 5 million state residents have been affected by data breaches, said Harris, outreach and policy counsel for the DOJ’s public protection unit.  “It’s constant,” Harris said. “It’s non-stop.”

There is good news. You don’t have to be genius to protect your personal information.

Merely by sticking with the basics and using more than a little common sense are still great first lines of defense. If it looks real, and it’s seeking information, Harris said, make a phone call to check. Don’t fill it out.

“Once someone gets your social security number, they can do stuff across the board,” Harris said. “It’s a hassle.”

If you are hacked, report the theft to local police, the state DOJ, credit bureaus and to banks and financial institutions. “If you are a victim of a scam,” Harris said, “don’t be ashamed of it.”

But back to the basics: Once you’ve upgraded your e-mail and other important accounts with strong passwords, don’t put reminders in digital space. Write them down and “put them in a drawer,” Harris said. And change them periodically.

Consider using security freezes on your accounts at credit rating agencies, who then are required to check with individuals when transactions that would affect ratings are received.

Monitor your important accounts, he said, recalling how he discovered during a relaxing family vacation to Key West not so long ago that his own credit card had been used to book two tickets to the Pacific Northwest. Thanks to his diligence, he was able to head off fraud. (He was not able to head off amazement that anybody would book out of Key West for the Pacific Northwest — sentiment shared by this week’s correspondent.)

With a parting nod to the basics, Harris reminded Rotarians to shred important paper documents. When using outside shredding services, watch the shredding take place. “Don’t let somebody put it in the back of a pickup truck and drive off,” he said.

Harris is a New Jersey native who lives in Cary with his wife and two children. He received his law degree from NCCU and his undergraduate degree at UNC-Ashville. We thank Harris for taking time to remind club members that simple acts can do a great deal to head off sophisticated scams and gigantic hassle. Mr. Harris was introduced by Rob Everett.

(Submitted by Mark Lazenby)

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