Naples ends up on a lot of lists.
The Best Places to Retire list.
The Healthiest City list.
Unfortunately, it ends up on The Highest Incidence of Identity Theft list, too.
“We have a lot of retirees, a lot of wealthy people, really open public records laws,” said Naples private investigator Carrie Kerskie.
Kerskie, who specializes in identity theft prevention and other cybercrimes, heads a Sheriff’s Office task force with the mission of getting Collier County off that list.
The group has three public forums scheduled in coming weeks to educate people about identity theft, fraud and cyberthreats.
Kerskie has also written a book, in ebook form now and available in paperback later this week, that educates people on ways to defend themselves against high-tech criminals.
It’s called, “Protect Your Identity, A Step-by-Step Guide and Workbook,” and carries on its cover a warning — “Keep this book in a secure location. Do not donate or discard.”
That’s because it invites readers to write down passwords — or more appropriately “passphrases” — and outline other steps they take to be safer.
“If people want to write them (passwords) down, that’s fine. Just don’t keep them under the keyboard or under the mousepad,” she said.
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Writing down passwords or keeping them in a secure electronic file may be necessary because hackers are getting more sophisticated. They use supercomputers to ferret out short, familiar passwords in a matter of hours. Research shows passwords that are at least 12 characters take much longer to decipher, so Kerskie recommends that approach.
And no password should be used at more than one site.
You don’t feel like entering your password over and over, so you press the “keep me signed in” button. Was that a mistake?
Using numbers like dates of birth, anniversaries, street addresses and phone numbers makes guessing them easier for criminals.
Kerskie recommends using a line from a favorite book or song as a way to remember a longer passphrase.
The book goes further than the identity theft protection companies you hear advertise on TV and radio. They mostly monitor credit reports and alert users when someone tries to open a new line of credit in their name.
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By being proactive, people can prevent it from getting that far.
Like those companies, Kerskie offers this disclaimer: “Not all identity theft can be prevented.”
For example, she said names, dates of birth and Social Security numbers can be purchased online for less than $1. “You really don’t even have to go to the dark web. It’s on the surface,” she said.
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With that information, a high-quality fake ID card can be purchased online. Using that, a person could visit a doctor posing as you and get prescription drugs. “You would have no way of knowing,” Kerskie said.
Other instances of online theft and fraud can be prevented.
For example, she recommends signing up for online accounts with every business or agency that offers them. That way, no one can open an account in your name and abuse it.
Many people are reluctant to open such accounts because they don’t know how to use the technology or because they’re afraid it will open them up to cyber theft.
But the opposite is true, Kerskie said. “It (the online account) just sits and waits until either you or the bad guy claims it. You have to mark your territory, so to speak.”
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Some of the most egregious examples involve hackers signing up for others’ Social Security online accounts and claiming their benefits.
Kerskie will be feature presenter at the upcoming workshops: 8:30 a.m. Thursday at St. John’s Episcopal Church on Park Shore Drive in Naples; 10 a.m. March 16 at Grey Oaks Country Club and 6 p.m. March 25 at the Collier campus of Florida SouthWestern State College on Grand Lely Drive.
The sessions are free, but Kerskie recommends calling her at 239-435-9111 ahead of the Grey Oaks event to get access through the gate.
The book is available at Amazon.com.
Identity thieves are always looking for innovate avenues so it’s important for people to keep up to date on the latest in prevention, Kerskie said.
“There are always new things to put in place,” she said.
Connect with Brent Batten at [email protected]
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