Become Super Secure: Combat Identity Thieves Before They Strike

One of the biggest crime waves occurring right now is not taking place on the street. Instead, it is taking place in the digital realm. Identity theft and the resulting fraud costs Americans $16 billion a year

Identity theft is a huge problem that affects millions of Americans. If you don’t want to become a victim, you need to take precautions. Below are some preventive measures you can take to protect you and your business from identity thieves. 

Use Third Party Online Payment Systems When You Can

Releasing your business or personal credit card number to a large number of websites can greatly increase your chances of becoming the victim of fraud. It only takes one of those sites being hacked to lead to you being victimized. However, you can use third party payment systems like PayPal to help better obscure your credit and debit card details when making purchases. In fact, you really don’t need a card at all to use PayPal. The service can remove the funds directly from your company checking account. 

Get Security Chips on Your Credit and Debit Cards

The new standard for both Visa and Master Card is to include a microchip on the cards that helps to verify purchases. Traditional cards, however, used a magnetic strip with static data that could be more easily stolen by identity thieves. Purchases made via chip cards however use different data for each purchase. This makes them far more secure. If you don’t have one yet, call your credit card company or bank and ask them to update your cards. 

Upgrade Your Physical Protection

Although we tend to think of identity thieves in terms of the internet, they could also target your physical business as well. This kind of theft can be more nefarious since you may not notice anything missing until it’s too late and you have been defrauded of thousands of dollars. Make sure to shred any important documents you put in your trash. Also make sure your building is physically secured. Consider hiring a locksmith to upgrade your door locks. Smart door locks, for example, can be programmed to only open with the scanning of a thumb print or retina. 

Identity theft is a huge risk for millions of people and especially businesses. If you make business purchase online, use a credit card or store financial information in your office, you could be a target. Do everything you can to protect your company. Being cautious can help you to avoid a financial catastrophe.

Guest author, Kara Masterson, is a freelance writer from West Jordan, Utah. She graduated from the University of Utah and enjoys writing and spending time with her dog, Max.

How Adaptable Is Your Brand

All ventures worth a grain of salt should have a clear vision of where they’re heading before they get underway. This is the planning stage, where you define the identity of your business, how you’ll market it, and naturally who you’ll be marketing it too. Fail to do any of these things and it’s unlikely that your business will get very far. There’s nothing more damaging to an ambitious business than having too many open ended questions and not enough answers. But that is only your starting point, not how you’ll be operating. That requires a much more adaptable approach.



The Look

There is only two brands that can get away with not changing the fundamental style of their brand, and they are: McDonald’s and Coca Cola, and even those two big players are facing more trouble than they’ve ever faced. For everybody else, a look has to be updated before it looks dated. What’s funny – no: annoying! – is that we’re so preconditioned to be adverse to change. Take a look at the fuss that’s kicked up every time Facebook subtly changes the layout of their homepage! But though you might love your initial design, as time moves on it’ll only look more dated…and then will only come back in style many decades down the line when it looks vintage. We’re sure you can’t wait that long to be a success. Change your style often.

Keeping Your Identity Loose

You should start out with a vision for your business; you should not religiously stick to it regardless of whatever else happens. Have you ever noticed how a band or television show takes a few years to really get into the groove of their sound/identity? You should be the same. Don’t hold on to the first idea you had, no matter how good may it be. While you can keep the general theme (say, in line with a cause you care about), the nuts and bolts of the business should always be under scrutiny and be able to be altered to suit needs. Besides from keeping things fresh, it’ll also keep the business fun for you to be involved in. As soon as you’re settled, you’re on the way down!

Changing As The Customer Changes

Ah, great! You have a clear, adaptable approach. You’ve set up your business in such a way that it’s always evolving, never static, always looking towards whatever is round its own individual next bend. That may be all good and well..but what about, you know, the people who matter – the customers? They’re what counts. As such, you need to be paying close attention to e-commerce trends to determine what people are spending are money on, and how they’re doing it. You’re one part of a massive society; and essentially, you’re unable to dictate anything (though give it a go!), so making sure you’re aware of the broader, wider trends will ensure you’re not left behind.

Agile Marketing

There are a few heads of companies out there who see their company’s social media accounts as the be all and end all of their success, and treat them accordingly, with the same level and care normally only reserved for a newborn baby. This is the wrong approach. Social marketing needs to be agile, adaptable, creative. Those who manage your social media account shouldn’t have a set list of rules they need to follow. They should be free to do whatever they want, more or less, following a set of loose parameters. If you give your workers a list of the exact type of posts you want, you’ll soon find your social media accounts to be a creative vacuum. However, give them free license to do whatever they please so long as they don’t break a few golden rules and you’ll have accounts bursting with exciting and creative content: which is exactly what you want!

Life is in Innovation

No brand, no matter how big or small, is able to make it through the murky business world without pushing the boat out and trying something new every now and again. Think of it this way: you’re not in the business of whatever industry you’re in; you’re in the business of innovation, of trying to do new things while at the same time keeping a firm eye on what has worked in the past. Keep your brand adaptable and you’ll have a business that is alive and ready to go in any exciting new direction that presents itself. And that’s your path to success.

Don’t Help Identity Thieves Steal Your Information

online_securityWhether you run a business or are simply just consumers doing his or her everyday shopping, do you ever worry about identity theft thieves interrupting your life?

Unfortunately, it happens more times than people like to think of.

When identity theft hits, it can be one of the most disruptive thing in an individual’s life.

That said are you taking the necessary precautions to lower the odds of becoming the next victim?

Don’t Help Identity Theft Thieves in the Process

One of the things identity theft thieves like the most is when individuals (and or businesses) make their jobs easier for them.

How might people do just that?

In the end, it comes down to not practicing commonsense, especially when it comes to financial and personal information.

Make sure you are not giving out personal and/or financial details that I.D. theft thieves can then take and use against you.

This includes:

  1. Computer gaffes – The most obvious way identity theft thieves target and strike their prey is via the Internet, so watch your digital footprints carefully. This means not leaving a trail of personal and financial data a mile long. An example of this would be someone using a site to purchase a product or service from. They think the site is safe and secure, but it turns out that is certainly not the case. As a result, they’ve given the identity theft thief or thieves’ a green light to steal from them. Be as sure as you can possibly be that the site you are (see more below) on (Ecommerce stores, airline or rental car sites, banks and other financial institutions, medical offices etc.) is as secure as possible. Once your information has been compromised, it can lead to all sorts of personal and/or financial headaches. Turning to products such as ultimate plus service from LifeLock and others like them can make all the difference in the world;
  2. In-person stumbles – How many times have you been out in public, only to turn around and leave items such as a credit or bank debit card sitting around for all the world to see? Remember, it just takes an I.D. theft thief mere minutes or even seconds to strike. Before you know it, he or she has your numbers from a card or cards. Once they get that information, they can then in turn use it against you. Also never loan your credit or debit card (or other such item) to friends to use. Sure, you may think you are helping someone out in a pinch, but once again, this act of generosity can come back to haunt you. If someone you know needs short-term financial assistance, offer to take care of it for them with your credit or debit card or loan them cash. Never just hand over on your financial cards and tell them to give it back to you when they are done with it;
  3. Being overly social – Another error waiting to happen is being overly social on social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and others. While being active on social media can benefit you both professionally and personally, it does have its potential downfalls too. Be careful not to spill the beans about your financial practices when using any social media venues. More and more identity theft thieves are camping out on social sites, hoping that someone is a little too chatty or careless on them. When that occurs, a thief can strike at a moment’s notice. If someone requests you download something from a social media site, proceed with extreme caution. The only time you should ever consider downloading something off of a social media site is if you feel 100 percent confident it isn’t an item containing malware and/or the person or site requesting a download is one you trust entirely. Given how creative I.D. theft thieves have become, use your best judgment to lessen the odds you are primed to be their next victim.

Your personal information is just that, personal.

Don’t let a criminal or criminals put one over on you both online and off of it. 

About the Author: Dave Thomas covers financial and business topics on the web.



Stop #Identity Thieves Before They Stop You

securityDo you have enough to worry about in life?

With the answer to that question likely being yes, why would you want to add the fear of becoming an identity theft victim to the list?

Unfortunately, too many consumers have done just that.

Intentionally or not; many consumers have been or are moving closer to being put in harm’s way when it comes to identity theft, leaving them with the possibility of ending up in financial peril.

So, if you’re one of these individuals, what are you doing to lessen the chances of actually becoming a victim?

Know How to Keep Thieves at Arm’s Length

For consumers to stay one step ahead of identity theft thieves, it is important that they practice sound financial principles.

This includes:

    1. Learn more about ID theft – Knowing what you are potentially up against is half the battle. With that the case, it is imperative that you educate yourself as much as possible about identity theft. Are you a prime target? What about your financial and personal identity could make you a soft target for criminals? Do you leave personal and financial information exposed on computers, in your trash can, and other places that can be compromised? Where are identity theft thieves most likely to strike? These are but a few of the questions you should be able to answer over time, so learn as much as possible about avoiding becoming yet another victim;
    2. Don’t give criminals a helping hand – You already have enough on your plate, why give criminals a helping hand? There are myriad of mistakes you can make that will assist identity theft thieves in their pursuits. One of them is leaving personal financial information around for the entire world to see. This can happen in various ways, but a notable one is not properly discarding of personal papers. Think about all the times you might have thrown out credit card receipts, letters with your Social Security number on it, bank data etc. Now stop and think about how easy it is for a thief to rummage through your outdoor garbage can, finding a treasure-trove of data on you. By shredding the information once you no longer need it, you all but totally remove any chances of having someone use that data to their advantage. Another scenario you want to avoid is leaving your computer (or one you are using) out in public with personal data on it. Remember, it just takes an identity theft thief in a public setting (library, coffee shop, airport, gym etc.) less than a minute while you’re away from your computer (or you discard something in the trash) to grab the data he or she needs to make your life miserable. Still another practice to avoid is giving out personal data (SSN, bank information etc.) to someone over the phone. Unless you truly know and trust the individual on the phone asking for such details, never give such details out;
    3. Passwords truly do matter – Whether it is for your online banking or your Facebook page, don’t use generic passwords when signing up and opening up accounts. Most criminals are way too smart for passwords like 123, John Smith, ABC, and so on. Along with creating solid passwords, it doesn’t hurt to change them up every so often. Also be very careful on which individuals you give such information out to. While it is fine for a spouse or other family member to know such information, you should not be sharing such details with co-workers and random friends. The same holds true for your office computer username/password combo.

Whether you have been the victim of identity theft or not, there are myriad of risks out there in today’s financial world, risks that can make your life quite frankly a living hell.

Be sure to implement safe financial practices when you are out in public, at home on the computer or discarding items in the trash, and of course in the workplace.

While staying a step ahead of identity theft thieves does take time and effort, you are the winner in the end.

About the Author: Dave Thomas covers business and financial topics on the web.

What It Takes to Meet the Self-Service Expectations of Today’s Students

Students expect easy access to university services from wherever they are, on whatever device they are using.

Whether it is the university website, registration information, the course catalog or looking up grades, today’s students, regardless of their generation, want to access these services online, without logging in to multiple systems.

Universities have to provide students online access to more than just course content in a learning management system. Students need to be able to access administrative systems to choose classes, register and pay for them, lookup their grades, and order their transcripts.

Building a system that interfaces with all the necessary systems to access all of that information is not always easy. There are access issues, identity management concerns, and disparate systems that all have to be pulled together into some a portal you design for your end users.

Analytics are also starting to play a role in self-service systems, too. Presenting a personalized user experience based on information the system knows about the user and their viewing habits is something people are familiar with from sites like Amazon. People are beginning to expect the same type of experience from all of the sites they interact with online.

Meeting Self-Service Expectations at the CVN

Columbia Video Network (CVN) has been offering fully online programs since 1998 and has always had online systems for remote students to use to access important information and university systems.

We always look for ways to provide the best online experience for our users. We pride ourselves on being a very customer-centric organization, paying a lot of attention to the level of service we provide to students and faculty.

When we redesigned our website recently, we took the opportunity to update all of the content. Our Frequently Asked Questions pages—statistically the most visited pages on our site—are very important because they contain answers to commonly asked questions. Updating and making those pages easy to access on the website has decreased the number of calls we get from people asking the same questions.

We are also building an online help desk system that will allow users to track requests they submit. Tracking questions and help desk tickets gives us insight into problems and provides opportunities for us to improve our documentation and communication.

The changes we made to our website were received positively by prospective students and by our existing users. We made sure that the information existing users needed to access was easy to find and we improved the look and functionality for new visitors.

Communication plays an important role in the success of technology projects. We try to be proactive communicating changes and we hold online information sessions that we record and post for people to review at their own convenience. The way you market and communicate change to your users can have a real impact on the success of a project and the time it takes for people to make the changes you want them to make.

We spend a lot of time evaluating existing processes as a group internally, discussing the best ways to make improvements. I am a big proponent of well-documented systems, and as we make changes, we create documentation that can be distributed and create training materials, too.

Reflecting Back: Overcoming Some of the Challenges of Adapting Processes

Self-service systems require the coordination of information from different departments on campus. Coordinating what is needed from each area and finding ways to get data in a format that is useable can be tricky but application programming interfaces (APIs) and standards like Learning Tool Interoperability (LTI) are making it a lot easier.

Communication, training and support pose significant challenges when changing or upgrading your systems. You can build the most efficient system with all the features you know people will want. If people can’t use it, or it doesn’t work the way they think it should, you will wind up with dissatisfied users.

Getting regular feedback from users through surveys is a good way to understand if you are meeting their needs. If you design a survey well, people are usually willing to give you their honest opinion, then the rest is up to you. You have to be willing to listen to the feedback you get and integrate it into your plans.

Success here truly hinges on good, effective communication with all stakeholders. If you are clear about the changes being made and you provide training and support for your users, you will have a much more successful rollout and better adoption of your systems.

This post first appeared on The EvoLLLution

Manuel Castells: The Power of Identity

“In a world of global flows of wealth, power, and images, the search for identity — collective or individual, ascribed or constructed — becomes the fundamental source of social meaning.”

The Power of Identity is the second book in Castells’ three-volume trilogy on the Information Age:

  • Volume I: The Rise of the Network Society;
  • Volume II: The Power of Identity, and
  • Volume III: End of Millennium.

Identity is people’s source of meaning and experience and should be distinguished from what sociologists have called roles, and role-sets. Identities are stronger sources of meaning than roles because of the process of self-construction and individuation that they involve. In simple terms, identities organize the meaning while roles organize the functions.

The information technology revolution, and the restructuring of capitalism, have induced a new form of society, the network society. (1) According to Castells, these networks are extremely powerful. They include only what is interesting from the point of view of the values or sources of interest that program this network.

Let’s say, the global capitalist network, left to itself, will include in the network companies, countries, regions, people, that enhance the value of this network in money-making terms. This is an extreme situation, but it’s not completely away from what’s happening in the world. Then, people who don’t have this value, don’t have the education, don’t have the infrastructure, don’t have the institutions, what do they do? They cannot live without these networks which provide them with everything and capture any wealth from anywhere through processing everywhere. At the same time, if they cannot actually contribute to these networks, they are switched off.

Castell’s proposes three forms of identity building in the age of the networked society:

  1. Legitimizing identity: introduced by the dominant institutions of society to extend and rationalize their domination vis a vis social actors, a theme that is at the heart of Sennett’s theory of authority and domination, but also fits with various theories of nationalism.
  2. Resistance identity: generated by those actors that are in positions/conditions devalued and/or stigmatized by the logic of domination, thus building trenches of resistance and survival on the basis of principles different from, or opposed to, those permeating the institutions of society, as Calhoun proposes when explaining the emergence of identity politics.
  3. Project identity: when social actors on the basis of whichever cultural materials are available to them, build a new identity that redefines their position.

Legitimizing identity generates a civil society; that is, a set or organizations and institutions, as well as a series of structured and organized social actors, which reproduce, albeit sometimes in a conflictive manner, the identity that rationalizes the sources of structural domination. This is the original conception of civil society, as formulated by Gramsci, the intellectual father of this ambiguous concept. Indeed, in Gramsci’s conception, civil society is formed by a series of “apparatuses”, such as the Church(es), unions, parties, cooperatives, civic associations and so on,  which, on the one hand, prolong the dynamics of the state, but, on the other hand, are deeply rooted among people. It is precisely this double character of civil society that makes it a privileged terrain of political change by making it possible to seize the state without launching a direct, violent assault. (9)

Identity of resistance leads to the formation of communes, or communities, in Etzioni’s formulation. This may be the most important type of identity-building in our society. It constructs forms of collective resistance against otherwise unbearable opposition, usually on the basis of identities that were, apparently, clearly defined by history, geography, or biology, making it easier to essentialize the boundaries of resistance. (9)

Project identity produces subjects as defined by Alain Touraine: The transformation of individuals into subjects results from the necessary combination of two affirmations: that of individuals against communities, and that of individuals against the market. (10)

Watch – Manuel Castells: Communication power in the Network Societies