Bill Stanton looks a bit like a more rugged version of the actor Tony Danza, but he’s no houseboy in an 80’s sitcom. Bill Stanton is a bona–fide former NYCPD officer who is now a paid Security Consultant for NBC. He has made more than 54 Today Show appearances alone, let alone being featured on a wide variety of other television shows, showing people how easy it is to be duped, robbed or conned. He has demonstrated everything from how you can protect yourself against scams, to actually going undercover to show how easy it is to “steal” from your home. In addition, he has tackled some very grim topics such as how children don’t always listen to safety information their parents give them, by showing parents how easily he could “con” their children.
But this otherwise affable, knowledgeable, and entertaining man, also known also as “Wild Bill,” was the speaker at a seminar on Internet (and other) Security I attended yesterday, courtesy of STAPLES. Bill started the conversation with the assembled group of Editors by sharing a bit about how he found himself in his unusual business. Stanton was forced to leave the Police Department after a disabling accident, and pursued a number of other security-related jobs. After 9-11 he began working with a partner, then on his own in the security business.
After the introductions, the lessons began. For starters, he showed us a little video featuring himself and a garbage can on a City street, to show us how easy it is (in under three minutes) to dumpster dive into an unsuspecting person’s trash, and acquire enough information in a flash, to assume their identity. The man on the video didn’t look at all happy. Neither did the suddenly sober editors at the table. The good news is that you can help frustrate thieves who want your identity by shredding all mail and papers, and even computer disks, that may contain any personal information about you, your family, even your kids and pets. He directed our attention to some shredders that STAPLES carries, the Staples MailMate M3 Shredder $79.00 (it shreds up to a dozen sheets in a cross-cut pattern that makes it impossible to piece it back together), or the larger capacity Staples SPL-1070M 10-Sheet Micro Cut Shredder $199.98 (for small businesses or large families this is a good choice) or the even larger Staples 15-Sheet Micro Cut Shredder $299.99
From there he advised us about security at the workplace, for computers, and Internet Security. As Bill began to talk about all the things people do without thinking that could seriously jeopardize their identity and their belongings, we all got even quieter. He suggested that many people consider their offices an extension of their homes, leaving everything from personal bills, to their checkbooks and personal laptops open and available for virtually anyone and everyone to see (and perhaps, steal). In the photo, he is showing us a Targus DEFCON Combination Notebook Cable Look $32.48. “I walk my dog with this cable,” Stanton joked. However, with over 10,000 user-settable combinations on the lock, and 6.5′ of galvanized, vinyl-coated steel cable, this inexpensive cable lock could save you thousands in equipment that needs to be replaced, not to mention the loss of non-recoverable information on the hard drive (some of which might give identity thieves everything they need to know to assume your identity and steal your money). For that reason, it’s also important to back up your hard drive. An inexpensive and super-easy way to back up documents is the SanDisk 2GB (there’s a 4GB version too) Cruzer Professional USB Flash Drive Enhanced for Ready Boost $94.98. This easy to use USB memory flash drive can password protect an area for sensitive files, and it’s made of metal, so it’s sturdy. Just insert it into your USB port, and voila! Another option is a more traditional External Hard Drive Backup. STAPLES sells several, including the Maxtor 500GB OneTouch 4 Plus External Hard Drive $169.98 and a take-it-with-you Maxtor 120 GB OneTouch 4 Mini Hard Drive $99.98
The Internet is a facet of daily life we take for granted, but while we’re typing away on our laptops in library, cyber cafes and airplanes, others can be looking over our shoulders. A simple solution is a DM 17″ LCD Privacy Filter $125.99 that fits right over your computer monitor screen, to ensure that the on-screen data is visible only to the person sitting right in front of that monitor. It also helps reduce screen glare (good to know if you’re taking the “office” to the pool). Bill also suggested a good anti-virus program as a must have. He likes Norton AntiVirus 2008 $39.99 or the more all inclusive Norton 360M $79.99. Keeping hackers and viruses out and away from your computer means additional security, not to mention sanity (especially if a bad virus gets onto your system).
When you leave checks, bills, and other statements or personal papers around, you never know who will find them and copy (or outright steal) them. “Don’t leave your bills and checkbook in the office drawer” warned Bill, “and never ever leave anything in your car! ” For home and office, Bill suggested a Fire-Proof, Waterproof Safe (STAPLES sells the Sentry Safe Fire-Safe Waterproof Security File H4300 $109.99 with a .68 cubic Ft. capacity, a waterproof seal, and a tubular key lock).
All of these items are a small investment that are an absolute must have to keep yourself self and not sorry. This is especially sobering when you consider that the experience is such a violation. Most victims never really recover completely. Every four seconds someone else becomes a victim, but even more shocking, only half the victims even know their identity has been taken from them. They only discover it when the evidence begins to pile up. Then it’s too late. It can take years to reclaim theirown identity! Bill told us that thieves have gone as far as filling out change of address forms to steal someone else’s mail and thereby get information they want….I mean, how low can you get?
Here are some other suggestions Bill shared that can help keep everyone in your family safe include (not in any order):
**never leave those magnetized card keys you get to open hotel room doors in the room or lying around. In many cases, enough personal information and credit card info is on them to give a thief a bonanza, in seconds.
**If you see something, say something! If that man lurking on a ladder in your neighbor’s yard looks suspicious, don’t keep it to yourself. Report it…the next time it could be your house under attack!
**Teach your children age appropriate behavior for dealing with strangers and reinforce it regularly. Also test them periodically so that if someone does try to hurt them, they will automatically know what to do, and follow through. Sometimes, being rude to an adult can be the right thing to do!
**check your credit report (at least one) at regular intervals. By doing so you can track any suspicious activity and take action before it’s too late.
**don’t let anyone get too close or look over your shoulder when you are keying in your password or codes, anywhere. And, clever thieves can even read your lips.
**don’t give out personal information on the Internet or by phone unless you are sure you are speaking to a credible representative.
**don‘t open any Email from unknown senders. They are likely to be phishing schemes, or contain viruses.
**watch your credit card when you give it to sales clerks and wait staff. They can easily make a copy.
**don’t own too many credit cards. They’re not great for your credit rating, and they leave you much more open to more theft.
**be careful about what you put out there about yourself online, and especially in online auction and sales sites. The reputable, secure sites have a little “lock” or unbroken key logo, and the urls to the site will begin with “https://”
**change your passwords regularly, and use “real” passwords that are alpha-numeric (e.g. “8puPP!es3″ instead of just “puppy.”
In November of 2007, I attended another STAPLES-sponsored security event. At that event I learned that besides selling a wide variety of items every home and office needs to stay secure, STAPLES also has a quick, free Security Quiz you can take to see how safe you are right now, at: http://www.advicesisters.net/2007/11/avoiding-identity-theft
I took the test and didn’t do badly the first time, but I have become even more vigilant about my personal security. When I took it again this week, I got a nearly perfect score. Try it yourself and you’ll learn instantly where you may want to make some personal changes!
To purchase any of the items I’ve mentioned here, visit a STAPLES store or http://www.staples.com/