Safe Online Shopping for the 2013 Holiday Season

Safe Online Shopping

With Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday just around the corner, it is safe to say that the holiday shopping craze is about to begin. While thousands will be rushing to line up outside stores in the wee hours of the morning, millions more will choose to stay at home and do their shopping online.

Online holiday shopping is definitely a more convenient option, because you won’t be crushed by mobs of shoppers at the mall. It does, however, pose some risks of its own, especially in terms of online safety. Scammers and online predators prepare for the holidays by devising schemes intended to drain your pockets – sometimes, for life. It is important for you to know how to protect yourself from these online predators.

Keeping Safe While Shopping Online

How do online predators attack cyber-shoppers? Basically, scam artists steal or hijack your personal information by “phishing.” When they succeed, they are able to access your log in information. Potentially, all of your online accounts could be compromised. They may also send spam messages to your email inbox, enticing you to click on links that connect you to an alluring, but bogus, website. Any personal information that you provide on that site will be used to empty your back account, or max out your credit cards in an instant.

To ensure you are not a victim of online scams, always follow these important guidelines:

  • Protect your computer or mobile device by installing anti-virus software, anti-spyware and/ or a spam filter. Make sure that your firewall is activated and secured.
  • Don’t click anything sent to you by email unless you expected that message. Do not click on links that come from unfamiliar sources and that lead to unknown websites.
  • Look for misspelled words in emails or website addresses. Take note of the website address and see if it has a proper URL extension. For instance, phishers can lure you to click instead of See the difference between the two URLs? The first one is not legit because it’s misspelled. It has a “1” instead of an “l.”
  • Do not click on the link.  Type the address into your browser manually to make sure that it is not a compromised site
  • Go to websites with an https padlock; not those with an http. An https on the address means that the site is encrypted, protected and safe to visit. Also, a website should have a validation from a Certificate Authority. If your computer or device has a first-class anti-virus software, it will detect websites that are not validated. The browser usually turns green if the site is secure.
  • Shop only on websites that you trust. Contact the Better Business Bureau (BBB) to check on the reliability and safety of online shopping sites. Trusted sites have the BBB Trustmark seal. Make sure that the seal is updated and valid by clicking on it. Additionally, you should also take time to read the privacy policy of every website you enter. Go for online shopping sites that have been trusted for years, like Amazon or eBay, and websites of your favorite brick-and-mortar stores.
  • Do not allow yourself to fall prey to offers that are “too good to be true.”  If you find designer clothes or brand new iPads offered way lower than the retail price (like 80% off), do not immediately jump on the deal. Chances are this is a scam. This is one of the many ways spammers spread their “disease” online. Use common sense.  The only free lunch is a turkey sandwich in which you are the turkey.
  • Do not use one password for all your online accounts, including your emails and social networks. Choose a different password when registering with an online retailer – not the one that you use for your email or, especially, your bank account.
  • Use a credit card or a prepaid card. Online purchases with a credit card are protected by the Fair Credit Billing Act. You’ll get protection in case of stolen personal information and unverified use of your card. Credit card providers are also vigilant in terms of detecting suspicious activities. Likewise, prepaid cards offer a similar level of anti-fraud protection. Aside from helping you stick to your personal budget, you’ll also get protection from identity thieves and scammers.
  • Get to know your rights as an online buyer. There are laws regarding maximum shipping time, cancellation of orders and refunds.

Keeping yourself protected while doing online holiday shopping is easier, if you are well-informed. Read online safety blogs and visit tech websites. Use common sense and stay alert. Happy Holidays!


New Ghost Path VPN Client Version Just Released

Ghost Path VPN Client

The latest version of the Ghost Path VPN client has just been released. We recommend all Ghosts download and install the new version as soon as possible.

Here are just a few of the changes / enhancements in this latest release:

  • Improved handing of OpenVPN connection time-outs
  • Leak protection can now be disabled without requiring a program restart
  • Fixed issue that caused active previous instances of OpenVPN to go undetected
  • Improved OpenVPN logging in-client
  • Fixed bug that caused issues when using ‘Launch at startup’ feature with ‘Connect at startup’ feature.
  • Mac OS X: Fixed bug that prevented ‘Launch at startup’ feature from working.
  • Windows: Resolved an issue that caused problems with TAP drivers
  • Fixed bug that caused some authentication failures to go undetected.
  • Enforce OpenVPN 64 remote address limit when building a VPN session’s IP list.

As always, contact support if you run into any problems at all.

How to Avoid Identity Theft Scams Arising from Obamacare

Obamacare Identity Theft

If you’re preparing to sign up for Obamacare then chances are you are having doubts about how your private information is being handled on the website. There are several scams that have cropped up targeting the general public switching to the new mandatory healthcare plan. Today we’re talking about some of the new scams and how you can avoid falling victim to them.

Obamacare, AKA the Affordable Care Act, is a plan to get all Americans covered by a healthcare insurance plan of their choice by January 2014. Signing up requires you to access in order to give vital information such as your name, social security number and location so that you get access to the plans available for you.

The website’s Terms and Conditions page has an assurance regarding the safety of information that you submit. However, there is a disclaimer that isn’t included in this page which states that

“You have no reasonable expectation of privacy regarding any communication or data transiting or stored on this information system.”

This effectively protects and absolves the government of any responsibility in case your information lands in the hands of bad guys such as identity thieves.

Let’s look at some of the ways in which you can have your identity and personal information compromised:

Phishing Scams

Phishing scams are used by identity thieves who take advantage of misspellings and less than careful people wanting to access the website to sign up for Obamacare. Let’s say you forgot the letter ‘l’ in healthcare. You’re probably still going to access a website; however, chances are that the site you’ll land on will be a scammer site that will look as legitimate as the original site. Once you enter your information in this kind of site, it gets sent to identity thieves who will then use your information to access your credit cards, bank accounts and income reports.

Calls, Home Visits and Emails about a Healthcare Insurance Card

There are no insurance cards when it comes to Obamacare. However, most people don’t know this. Insurance cards were common under the previous Medicare plan. You might receive a call, email or a house visit from someone asking you to provide your social security number so you can get your insurance card. Please ignore or report such individuals and do not give them any personal information.

Scammers Posing as Advisers

There’s a general feeling of confusion when it comes to Obamacare; most people have no idea where they are going to get more information regarding the plan. As a result, there are lots of nonprofits stationed around malls and community lots to educate the public. However, not all of these groups are legit; some of them are posing as advisers simply because they want to manipulate you into giving them your bank account information, tax details or social security number for malicious purposes.

The general rule of thumb is to not speak to anyone regarding your choice of insurance package, and to be doubtful and suspicious of anyone who seems too eager to help you out when it comes to picking your Obamacare package.

Staying Safe While Signing Up

Here are a few tips that might help you avoid identity theft when signing up for Obamacare:

1. The main website has an “s’” at the end of the http prefix. This is something that you should ensure always exists for you safety. There’s also a padlock sign at the beginning of the address signaling that the website’s security has been verified by appropriate web security firms.

2. If someone threatens you with a fine if you refuse to give information or don’t sign up for a particular plan, run the other way. This is because these fines will be assessed and applied according to your tax returns next year; they’re not instant fines.

3. Keep an eye on your bank account, credit card spending and other information if you suspect that your identity has been stolen. This will help you identify any suspicious activity and take immediate action to stop these identity thieves from stealing or misusing your funds.

4. If you’ve been a victim of identity theft, call the relevant credit bureaus such as Equifax, Experian and TransUnion and immediately let them know so they can take action.

5. You can also call the Federal Trade Commission hotline on 877-438-4338 to file a complaint as soon as possible if your identity has been stolen.

Stay safe out there Ghosts. New initiatives like this are rich breeding grounds for scammers.