BEWARE OF FAKE SHREDDERS
“All that is now hidden will someday come to light”
“Information is not lost in…black holes”
Stephen Hawking (July 21st, 2004, the 17th annual ICGRG Scientific Conference)
And beware of this deliciously deceptive dessert which is not what it seems: the light, fluffy outside conceals a dark, hidden core filled with creamy chocolate and loaded with calories and fat.
For those who want a do-it-yourself deception here’s a great recipe secretly loaded with extra chocolate:
The Battle for Privacy is Like an Arms Race
Will all secrets ultimately be revealed, or can Black Holes be used as the ultimate way to permanently destroy information as physicist Stephen Hawking originally proposed back in 1975? In 2004 Hawking, perhaps the smartest person in the world, changed his mind and came to believe that in the fullness of cosmic time even black holes eventually come to an end and yield up their deepest secrets, though in garbled form. But controversy over whether black holes are the ultimate shredder or not continues. See Black Hole Information Paradox:
Whatever the real answer is to this philosophical and scientific question, here in the everyday world people are engaged in a daily struggle to protect their privacy and money against thieves, fraudsters and con artists who seek ways to gain access to sensitive information. Shredders have become a popular and highly effective tool for protecting privacy and preventing “dumpster divers” and other bad guys from accessing confidential records.
However, unconfirmed rumors persist that the Central Intelligence Agency has built a ‘fake shredder’ which secretly photocopies documents immediately before they are shredded. The information is then faxed by radio to a remote, secure location for study and analysis. Unsuspecting users of the fake shredder never know that their information has been compromised (until it is too late).
Fake shredders could be deployed in foreign embassies, used for industrial espionage, and in corporate fraud cases like Enron where last minute efforts were made to destroy incriminating documents. Fake shredders could be used by bad guys just as well as by good guys. The blades cut both ways.
Beware of fake shredders.
Ten Useful Tips for Protecting the Privacy of Your Financial and Tax Records
(1) Never Use a Fake Shredder
To the best of my knowledge here are some great ‘real shredders’. Cross cut models turn documents into confetti. The cost of buying a shredder may be a tax-deductible office expense. Give the receipt to your accountant. (Don’t shred it and don’t let the receipt fall into a black hole, regardless of what Hawking now says!)
(2) Copiers Remember
Many copiers made after 2001 have built in hard drives that record the image of every document ever copied, scanned or faxed. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the government agency that guarantees the deposits of private banks, issued the following security alert about the potential hazards of copiers that remember what they have copied:
(3) The Contents of your Wallet or Purse May be Readable by Fraudsters
Thieves can pick your pocket without ever touching it. More and more identity documents contain Radio Frequency Identification Tags (RFID) which are scannable. For example the U.S. Passport Card and new Passports contain RFID chips that are scannable. Fraudsters with scanners could capture your personal information while standing many feet away from you. See:
The counter-weapon is electromagnetically shielded wallets and purses made from steel. Stewart Stand makes a line of high quality steel wallets impervious to RFID scanning. See:
(4) Your Next Trip to an ATM May Be Recorded
Fraudsters with camera phones can secretly record people at ATM machines and capture credit and debit card numbers, expiration dates, and pin codes. I was personally victimized by this scheme during a recent trip to Boston. Be conscious of your surroundings and of people who seem to be aiming their cell phones in your direction.
(5) Internet-Enabled Office Equipment is Vulnerable to Hacking
Many office machines are plugged into the internet for various reasons. If these devices are not protected hackers can cause harm. See:
(6) The Post Office is Not What it Used to be
The good old days are gone at the post office and the reliability of mail delivery seems to be deteriorating in direct proportion to hikes in postal rates. What happens if your
bank statement is delivered by mistake to your neighbor? What happens if a credit card offer is misdelivered to the wrong person?
One great way to protect your financial privacy is to sign up for e-statements from banks and other financial institutions. As long as you utilize strong passwords for your online transactions it is likely that electronically delivered financial reports will come to you reliably, unlike postal mail delivery.
(7) Use Strong Passwords for Online Transactions
Real world experience and thefts of passwords from commercial and institutional internet sites indicate that many people are sloppy and lazy with their passwords. If you don’t believe in strong passwords then you shouldn’t believe in strong locks either. If this is really what you think then be consistent and have all the locks removed from your house or apartment and replaced with flimsy, cheap, ineffective locks. See:
Your internet security will only be as good as the passwords you use. Good passwords use upper and lower case characters, numbers, and punctuation marks.
(8) The Latest Target of Identity Theft: Tax Returns
The IRS has issued a news release which discusses how identity thieves can use your social security number to file fraudulent tax returns and obtain refunds. One clue that this has happened is the receipt of an IRS Notice stating that two tax returns have been filed for the same period. The first return (usually submitted very early in January) is filed by fraudsters while the second return is the one you sent in. See here for more guidance from the IRS:
If you have been victimized by this type of identity theft contact your accountant and also file Form 14039 with the IRS as soon as possible:
And see this extremely important New York Times article which explains how this crime is rampant, widespread, and growing to epidemic proportions:
(9) Secure All Financial and Tax Records
Keep all financial and tax information locked up. Account and income tax statements are keys that can give thieves access to your personal life and money. When is paper as good as gold? Answer: when the paper gives access to the gold.
(10) Limit Online Personal Information
More and more people share personal information and photos online at sites like Facebook. Be careful not to divulge information that could allow bad guys to steal your financial information. Dates of birth, home addresses, names of pets and similar personal information can provide keys and clues to fraudsters.
The Notorious Spanish Prisoner Scam
Once upon a time there was a very rich, very beautiful, and very famous Spanish Lady of aristocratic birth who was beloved by many. But this fine Lady had powerful political enemies who constantly plotted her destruction and ruin.
Then one day this Spanish Lady was wrongfully arrested on a flimsy pretext while secretly visiting a children’s orphanage under an assumed name. The Lady wished to conceal her true identity in order to avoid the kind of public scrutiny and paparazzi that tortured poor Princess Diana.
Corrupt local officials eager for brides and ransom arrested the Lady on false charges and solely for their own disgusting enrichment. They will free the Lady only if a large bribe is paid in cash. The Lady is eager to escape the horrible local prison without the public becoming aware of her disgraceful arrest. She sends a trusted confidante to visit you, a person of known honesty and integrity, in order to raise funds to secure her release. If she tries to access her own vast wealth her true identity will be betrayed and all will be lost.
It is imperative that this situation be kept strictly confidential in order to avoid a public scandal. The Lady’s confidante is a lawyer and business advisor who promises you rich rewards and a large return on your modest investment if you are willing to help. You must agree to be completely discreet about this matter.
This very well dressed, very respectable lawyer and business advisor is aware of your reputation for fair dealing and discretion and has approached you because of your known qualities as a decent, reliable person. If you are willing to invest $5,000 to secure the release of the Lady you will receive $50,000 as soon as she achieves her freedom and returns to her luxurious estate in Madrid.
Will you invest $5,000 to free the Lady from unjust imprisonment under harsh conditions? Will you agree to be quiet about the matter? How soon could you provide the money? And if you can’t help maybe you know a trustworthy person who could?
For more on this infamous scam see:
Good Thinking is the Only Effective Defense of Privacy and Money
There is no lasting static defense against bad guys who seek to violate your privacy and gain access to your confidential financial and tax information. There will always be an eternal drama involving attack and defense, measure and counter-measure, strategy and counter-strategy, super-weapon and super-defense, Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Moriarty, FBI Agent Joe Shea and fraudster Frank Abagnale, brilliant scientist Tsutomu Shimomura and ingenious hacker Kevin Mitnick, talented mathematician Dan diBartolomeo and infamous swindler Bernie Madoff.
The enduring dialectic of eternal struggle means that eternal vigilance is necessary. Thus, you should always be on the watch for fake shredders and similar schemes and tricks. Good thinking is the only real defense and consists of the union of creative and analytical thought. What other kinds of mischief can be perpetrated with a shredder? A cell phone? A GPS tracking device? It’s great to think two steps ahead. But there is one thing that is far better: to think three or more steps ahead!
The story of how seemingly harmless objects can be abused to steal money and critical information continues to be told. You will hear more such stories tomorrow, next week, next month, and next year.
The battle continues….
Certified Public Accountant Master of Business Administration
Tel: (207) 989-2700 E-Mail: GeorgeAdams@IntelligenceForRent.com
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