Cutting Identity Theft Vulnerability with LifeLock’s Tami Nealy

May 3, 2013

JOHN SHEGERIAN: Welcome back to Green is Good, and we’re so excited and honored today to have Tami Nealy on the phone with us. She’s the Senior Director of Corporate Communications with LifeLock Inc. Yes, LifeLock, the identity theft company that’s gotten so popular over the years out of necessity. Tami Nealy, welcome to Green is Good. TAMI NEALY: Thanks for having me today, John. JOHN SHEGERIAN: You know, Tami, there is no greater time to have you on the show because this is such an important topic, identity theft, and it was only a few weeks back that Michelle Obama and Arnold Schwarzenegger and Joe Biden and all their personal information was on full view for the world to see, from their Banana Republic receipts to their social security numbers on some Russian websites. Talk a little bit about victims of identity theft, and if the First Lady and Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Vice President can have their identity breached, isn’t this now really something we should all be worried about, Tami? TAMI NEALY: Well, it certainly is, John. In this instance, it shows that there’s no one that is not vulnerable to identity theft. Certainly, it may have happened to somebody that you know, maybe a neighbor, a co-worker, maybe even a family member, but until it happens to you, we kind of bury our head in the sand, saying this can’t happen to me. The First Lady of the United States and the list that you mentioned, if I remember correctly, the Director of the FBI, obviously this gentleman leads the national law enforcement initiatives for our country, and it can happen to him as well, so you may think, “Who am I? I just live in a small town here. It can’t happen to me.” It can certainly happy to anyone that has a name and social security number, essentially. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Wow. That’s so important for our listeners. Green is Good is not only about sustainability, but it’s about great companies like yours that are helping us all get through the new normal right now. The new normal is that we have to protect ourselves. You have a great website. Truth be known and truth in advertising, my family, we’re all members of LifeLock. We think this is very important to our security, and so we’re big fans of yours, Tami. For our listeners out there that are not yet familiar with your product or your website or your services, first of all, I want to send them to your website. It’s www.lifelock.com. Talk a little bit about how our listeners can protect their personal information better. TAMI NEALY: LifeLock is an eight-year-old company, and what makes us different is that we’re a proactive identity protection company. There’s a lot of services out there that may offer things that are reactive, that may tell you after something happens. LifeLock wants to work to be that frontline of defense, if you will. We can’t stop the criminals from stealing your information from your doctor’s office, your dentist’s office. We can’t stop them from hacking it somewhere, but when they want to put it to use, when they want to monetize it for their personal gain, that’s where we have that insight. That’s where we’re able to see it. We step in and say, “Nope. We’re here to protect John and his family so that he doesn’t become that next victim of identity theft.” There’s a lot of people that say, “I don’t have a credit card, so I don’t need to worry about it,” or, “Hey, my bank covers me.” Well, you know what? That may cover a piece of the identity theft pie, but what you need to understand on it, and your listeners as well, is that identity theft goes far deeper than that. Do you have an ATM card to access your bank account? Do you have a checking account? Have you ever filed your taxes? Do you go to the doctor? Do you have a driver’s license? Have you ever logged onto Facebook? All of these pieces, your username, your password, your account numbers, your date of birth, are all pieces of the puzzle that make up your unique identity. So, John, your name, social security number, date of birth, home address, Facebook page, no one else has those. Those are all unique to you, and when you take any piece of those in combination, so your name, your bank account, your name and your social security number, and use that certainly without your knowledge, what that is is that’s what constitutes identity theft, and that’s happening every day in this country. Unfortunately, it’s not going away. The Federal Trade Commission released a report in February of this year that shows that for 13 consecutive years, identity theft is the number one complaint that their agency is receiving. We’d certainly like to see that number go down. We’d certainly like to see those complaints fall down and lessen, and that’s what LifeLock is here for. We want to educate consumers. Yes, we offer a service to protect you, but first and foremost, we want you to understand what identity theft is, so you can take steps, maybe tweak some behaviors in your life that reduce your vulnerability, so that you don’t become the next victim of identity theft. JOHN SHEGERIAN: You mentioned Facebook, Tami, and we’re not picking on Facebook. We’re big fans of Facebook, but for our listeners out there, are they at risk every time they go online and they make a purchase or they pay a banking receipt or they’re just using social media? Does that create extra risk for them? TAMI NEALY: It does if you’re not doing it in a safe environment, but not every transaction is dangerous. So, what I mean by that, John, is if you’re going to log onto do your bill pay today, let’s say you’re going to pay your mortgage online today, you’ve got online bill pay, don’t do it in a library. Don’t do it at the airport. Don’t do it at a place where they offer free Wi-Fi because anybody has access to that free Wi-Fi, and tech-savvy identity thieves can see what’s happening on that open connection. They can see what you’re typing in if they have the right systems in place. The safest way to do it is maybe at home with your secure connection, where you have to put a password in. Maybe you’re doing it on your mobile device where you have a unique 3G or 4G connection because that’s not being shared with other people. I’ll admit, I shop online. I don’t like to fight the traffic at the mall and stand in line for 20 minutes. It’s just easier to shop online. When I do it, a few things. I put myself on what I call the driver’s seat. I’m not going to go to a search engine like Google or Bing and type in Macy’s. I know the web address for Macy’s is macys.com. I’m going to type it in. I’m not going to click on a link, I’m not going to click on a pop-up advertisement. I’m putting myself in the driver’s seat so that I go to the actual website that I know. You go through the aisles, you put a few things in your shopping cart. When you go to check out, look at the URL, the address at the top. You want to make sure that it’s changed to https, and the s gives you security. What it tells you is the information that you’re putting in there, the payment information, the mailing information, the shipping information, that it’s been encrypted during the transaction. So when you’re sending it to Macy’s, that’s encrypted and only Macy’s has the right encryption key to decode it when it lands there. So what’s happening as you’re sending through the air, it’s less likely to be intercepted by the bad guys. JOHN SHEGERIAN: That’s so interesting. You know, recently, Tami, in the media, there was a story where our Department of Defense had a bunch of mobile devices that were described as breached or not safe with the Department of Defense and other information being available to the bad guys out there. We all love our cell phones and our iPads and all of our mobile devices. Talk a little bit about the risk of information on these mobile devices if they’re not handled the right way when they come to their end of life and other issues surrounding them. TAMI NEALY: First of all, let’s start with, before we get to the end of life of these devices, let’s talk about what we have when we put them in use every day. You better have a password on there because you set that phone down and walk away from it hundreds of times a day. You may leave that tablet on an airplane. You may leave it at the coffee shop. You may forget and be in a rush and leave it behind. If you leave it behind and it’s not password protected, imagine what a bad guy can find on there. I’ll tell you what. I know a lot of people that have apps for their bank, for their credit cards, so they just click on the app. They may have already saved their password in there so they don’t have to put it in every time. Again, these are pieces to the puzzle of what makes up your identity. John, if I saw your iPad, let’s imagine that I can see that you have a Bank of America app on there, you have a Fidelity app on there, you have a CitiMortgage on there, you have a variety of these things. This is telling me more about you. This is opening up and presenting me with all the puzzle pieces. I might just need to click on there and say I want to move money out of John’s Fidelity account into my personal checking account. So, again, more pieces to your puzzle, and password protect it, and be smart with your password. Don’t be like, “Oh, I’m going to do 1234 or I’m going to do my house number.” Do something creative. Use the letters on that keypad maybe to spell a word out to make it a little bit more complex. I’m familiar with the Apple devices, and you can switch it from having a four-digit number, you can switch it to actually a word. I would encourage people, instead of having a password, consider a passphrase. Maybe it’s like a longer sentence, or maybe you abbreviate it to the first letter of each word in the sentence, so I love the 1984 Detroit Tigers might be ILT1984DT! Again, that’s more complex, and you would have to really know me and know the history of the sports teams that I like and try to figure that passphrase out and understand that I’ve even shortened it. I’ve abbreviated it even more. JOHN SHEGERIAN: So, that’s they key to creating secure passwords. That’s the good keys to that. TAMI NEALY: Yeah. And then going back to what you said kind of end of life with these devices, maybe you have the early iPad, and you want to move to the latest and greatest iPad or iPhone or Android device, whatever it is. Delete all of those apps, hit restore factory settings. That would wipe out whatever you have on there, and then certainly properly dispose of it correctly. Maybe if you’re reselling it or selling it to a neighbor or co-worker or something, maybe you take it into a Geek Squad somewhere or a computer store and you say, “Can you confirm that all the information on this device is wiped clear before I give it to somebody else?” JOHN SHEGERIAN: Right. For those who just joined our show, we’re on the phone with Tami Nealy from LifeLock. For those who are not familiar with LifeLock yet or don’t use their services and want to learn more, please go to www.lifelock.com. It’s an amazing website. Tami, you said there’s some special areas you want to point out, but I also want to point out that one of my favorite areas of your website is the area that says “How to protect yourself,” and you have so many great tips here in terms of your credit scores, personal information, your government information, staying alert. So you have some other ideas on where you want to send our listeners to your website. TAMI NEALY: Yeah. On our website at lifelock.com, there’s a tab called Identity Theft 101. John, we could stay on the phone for hours today and talk about all the type of identity theft issues that face us today, but we go into much more detail on our website. We’re constantly putting out there different trends, different alerts that we want consumers to know. If the bad guys wanted you to know what they were doing, they would tell you. They don’t want you to know. The less you know, the more effective they can be at compromising your information, and we kind of want to lift the covers up and say, “Hey, everyone, here’s what the bad guys don’t want you to know” because that knowledge gives you power, gives you the strength and says, “Hey, I’m going to change this behavior and they won’t be able to get my information that way.” Again, really focusing on that education for consumers. Again, we’re an eight-year-old company, and we see that there’s not a lot of information that’s available regularly enough to consumers, and we want to be that source. We want to say, “Hey, whether you’re a LifeLock member or not, come back to our website because identity thieves are changing their tactics, their techniques, every day, and we work very closely with law enforcement to try to understand what the bad guys are doing, not just in your city, but around the world.” If there’s a new trend that’s happening maybe in Miami, Florida, we want you to know about it in California. We want you to know about it so you can be prepared so it may not happen to you. Education is so very important to us at LifeLock, and again, whether you’re a member or not, we would encourage you to visit that website at lifelock.com and learn more. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Tami, thank you for that. There are so many issues I want to try to cover here for our listeners’ sake. Talk a little bit about protecting information at home and when people travel because there’s so many ways now that they can be harmed. TAMI NEALY: At home, best practices are keep your personal information at home in a safe, in a locked drawer. Maybe it’s not at home. Maybe it’s in a security box at the bank, maybe there’s something available at the post office or at your work. Keep it locked securely away. By personal information, I don’t mean everything in your wallet. Don’t come home from work every day and put your wallet in the safe, which is not the most convenient thing to do. But your social security card should be in there, any unused checks before you refill your checkbook should be kept in your safe, any tax documents that you have. Maybe you’ve got a binder full of your past 7-10 years of tax forms. Keep that in your safe. When home invasions are occurring today, they’re not necessarily going for that flat-screen TV. They’re not necessarily going for high-end gaming systems. They’re going for laptop computers, tablets, they’re going through your drawers and maybe your home office looking for that personal information. If they steal your flat-screen television and try to sell it, they can sell it to one person. If they find your social security card and steal that, they can sell that to hundreds of people over and over again, and that’s able to generate more funds for the bad guys than if they were to steal a television or any other gaming equipment you might have. Obviously, keep your doors locked on your home, but then make that information, put that behind another locked door of a safe or a locked cabinet as well. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Home is where we raise our family, Tami. What about our children? Do we have to protect them? Should we be worried about them if they’re old enough to have social security? Obviously, they all have social security numbers, but if they have a job or something like that and they’re out there doing commerce on cell phones with our credit cards and things of that such, is there a methodology and a way to protect them as well? TAMI NEALY: We certainly need to protect our children because identity thieves know that they have the cleanest record. They don’t have credit in most instances, and what identity thieves know is they know that the person credit is applied for, the credit bureaus, the financial institutions, say, “Wow, Jackson Nealy, this is the first time he’s applying for a line of credit.” Jackson is my eight-year-old son. He doesn’t have a line of credit because he is a third grader, but if identity thieves use his name and social security number, created a different date of birth, a different address, certainly they’re not going to put that he’s eight because it wouldn’t be issued, but they may say he’s 18, 28, 58. They will look at it and say he’s a first-time applicant, we’ll go ahead and issue him a line of credit for $250 or $500. What the thieves are doing is they’re building up the line of credit for minors because it goes undetected for so long, so that child maybe turns 17, 18, 16, goes to apply for a job, and then it’s going to show up on the credit report. Maybe they apply for a college loan. Maybe they apply for a wireless cell phone account in their own name. Those types of things will show up on the credit check, and again, on lifelock.com you’ll find just how thieves are doing this for children. LifeLock offers a service to help protect children as well. It’s $2.50 a month, and we certainly understand that this is a group that’s being targeted, and we want parents to understand that yes, you buckle them up in a car, you never leave the driveway until their seatbelt is buckled, they have a helmet on with their bicycle, they always wear sunscreen out in the sun. They’re our hearts outside of our body, and we do everything we can to protect them. Their identity is something that we definitely need to protect proactively as well. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Tami, that’s great advice because we’re all worried about kids and our families. That’s awesome advice. We’re down to the last two minutes or so. Can you talk quickly about the certain times of year that we should be on more alert for identity theft? Lastly, Tami, what if we are victims of our personal information being breached or stolen? What does that mean for us, and what should we do? TAMI NEALY: So, times of the year, I would say yes, there are different times of the year, but I would say the minute you let your guard down is probably when the identity thief will strike, so I don’t want to say to be concerned during the tax filing season only and holiday shopping season, because then you might be traveling with your family on vacation in July or August, and it may happen to you. Identity thieves want you to let your guard down. They want us to tell you it only happens these times of year. Unfortunately, it’s happening every single day, and so again, you don’t want to constantly be looking over your shoulder, so again, lifelock.com, learn about the different things you can do to reduce your vulnerability. Consider a service like LifeLock to protect you so you don’t have to be watching over your shoulder. That’s what we’re there for. Again, if you do become a victim of identity theft, step number one, you’ve to contact your local police department. You’ve got to file a police report, and then depending on the type of identity theft it is, you may have to work with a credit repair company, you may have to contact the credit bureaus. If you’ve been a victim of identity theft at any level, you want to contact all the companies, all the financial institutions you work with, and say, “Hey, I’ve been the victim of identity theft. I’d like to put stronger safeguards, stronger passwords, I’d like more levels of verification and authentication when I come into make a withdrawal or try to make any changes on my account because it’s happened to me once. I don’t want it to happen to me with your organization.” And then last but not least, you’re going to want to contact the Federal Trade Commission to file a complaint. What they do, again, is gather consumer complaints throughout the calendar year, and then issue a report that look at these types of complaints, share it with law enforcement, consumer groups, government agencies, so that they can get together and try to develop stronger laws, stronger penalties, to really go after these bad guys. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Tami, thank you. Like you said, we could be on the phone for hours. Your information is so helpful to our listeners. I use LifeLock for my family. I want my listeners to go to your website, lifelock.com. Protect yourself now. Go to LifeLock. Tami Nealy, you are living proof that green is good. TAMI NEALY: Thank you.