Tuesday, October 5, 2010
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There's good news to report in the international arrests of 92
suspects charged with using the ZeuS Trojan to steal $70 million from
U.S. bank accounts over the last four years. Another 19 people in
London were charged with stealing more than $9 million in the U.K.
over three months using the same malware. We covered this crime in a
previous edition of GCFlash (http://www.gcfbank.com/gcf0817.asp).
The arrests led to the apprehension of five others in the Ukraine,
where this fraud is believed to have been orchestrated. More arrests
Dubbed "Operation Trident," the investigation was triggered in May
2009 when FBI agents in Omaha, NE noticed fraudulent ACH payments
made to 46 different bank accounts. They partnered with various local
and international authorities to track the activity leading to the
The arrests centered around the money mules who opened bank accounts
under false names in the country where the accounts were compromised.
Most of these money mules entered the target countries under a
student VISA and carried forged passports with a false name.
The stolen money would be deposited into their accounts and then
transferred overseas to the perpetrator.
So while these arrests are good news, the threat is far from over.
The investigation revealed that the ZeuS code is more widespread than
These attacks are being carried out by highly organized crime rings.
The 116 arrests have disrupted one gang, but they're far from putting
the masterminds out of business.
The kit to build this Trojan is readily available through criminal
Web sites. And rather than curtailing the threat, it's gotten more
The crooks are now targeting corporate online banking accounts
rather than consumer accounts. It's a matter of economics. It's
easier to steal $500,000 from one business customer than $500 from
And ZeuS is not the only malware functioning this way. It's merely
the forerunner in a new breed of criminal activity.
There are a lot of other malware writers out there competing to
develop the next great threat. It pays well. The author of the ZeuS
code has earned an estimated $15 million from license rights.
Traditional anti-virus software vendors are finding it hard to keep
up with the ever-changing face of the ZeuS Trojan. With it being so
readily available, each crime gang who deploys the product customizes
it to their own purpose.
Expect to see stricter security controls coming your way in the near
future. Some vendors may require something physical in your
possession to confirm your identity, like a USB stick or token.
Others may enforce tighter authentication methods. Certain
institutions may choose to employ rigid fraud detection in the
background where the consumer is not inconvenienced.
A multi-layered approach is your best defense against this threat.
It bears repeating the same advice offered so often. Keep your
firewall configured to its highest setting. Don't open e-mail
messages from unknown sources.
These ploys succeed by playing on human interest, the curiosity
inherent in our genes. They promise you something you can't resist
such as pop-up boxes on your screen claiming you're the winner or
sexy pictures of your favorite celebrity. But satisfying this
curiosity comes at a high price.
As Halloween season approaches, we'll visit haunted houses or other
attractions promising a scare around every dark corner. Consider the
cyber world equally as dark. But unlike the holiday, the horror
continues well after you turn the calendar page.
IN AND OUT OF DEBT
Watch any television show and you'll be bombarded with commercials
about debt relief. There is the group that claims they can slash your
unpaid federal income taxes. Several others tout relief from credit
All promise to deliver something you're better off doing yourself.
Many Americans are finding themselves dealing with large amounts of
debt they never expected. They lost their job or became ill, piling
up medical bills. It became impossible to make ends meet.
Credit counseling provides a valuable service for those who are
struggling. But not all agencies are legitimate. And it's fairly
simple to tell which ones are taking you for a ride.
Reputable credit counselors will provide guidance on improving your
credit score and help you develop sound financial management skills.
They cannot remove negative credit information from your report as
long as it's accurate. The Fair Credit Reporting Act dictates what
information the credit reporting agencies maintain on your record,
and how long it must remain. Information provided by your creditors
will appear for seven years, ten for a bankruptcy.
That same Act provides that the reporting agency must investigate
any inaccurate or incomplete information you report to them, and
correct any errors in a timely fashion, usually within 30 days.
The National Foundation for Credit Counseling is a non-profit credit
counseling service. They can refer you to a member in your area
should you decide to enlist help.
Then there are the scammers. Contrary to one advertisement, there
was no debt relief act. The company simply targets those who will be
charged the heftiest fee for their service.
Red flags should waive if the company you consider does not identify
your legal rights and what steps you can take yourself for free. Stay
away from a credit repair firm that instructs you not to contact a
credit reporting company directly.
Avoid companies that offer to reinvent your credit identity,
suggesting you apply for an Employer Identification Number to use
instead of your Social Security number. Other scammers may advise you
to dispute accurate information in your credit report. These acts are
illegal. You could face charges if you follow their advice.
A scam company wants you to pay fees up front for their services,
before they are performed. And the company suddenly disappears.
Or the scam credit repair service directs you to send your monthly
bill money to them where they will divvy up among your creditors.
They'll put your money in an escrow account while they negotiate
lower payoffs or interest rates on your behalf. While they're
haggling, your account falls into arrears. Your credit history is
worse than when you started.
There is no magic answer for dissolving debt. Under most
circumstances, it takes years to build. It won't disappear overnight.
It seems like a good time to go back to basics with investing. There
are many different types of investments that carry just as many
levels of risk. To start with the basics, an investor can buy stocks
or bonds from a company. Stocks represent equity securities which
represent ownership of the company. Bonds are debt securities that
represent money that a corporation has borrowed from the bond holder.
The bond holder is ahead of a stockholder in getting paid if a
company becomes insolvent. Legally, loans get paid before
Both of these securities, or negotiable instruments, can be sold if
there are willing buyers, or a market. Stock exchanges are big
regulated places where they are traded. The NASDAQ and New York
exchanges are two of the largest in the United States. Stocks that
are traded through this type of market are regulated by the
Securities and Exchange Commission, or the SEC. The SEC was created
as a result of the Great Depression enforcing laws created beginning
in 1933. There continue to be revisions with one of the most recent
being the Sarbanes-Oxley Act in 2002. This was the congressional
response to the corporate and accounting scandals with companies like
Enron, WorldCom and Tyco. These problems cost investors billons of
dollars and shook the confidence in financial statements that are
regulated by the SEC.
The SEC expects an investor is going to make an informed decision
when looking at the financial statements a company is required to
file with them. An investor shouldn't put money into a company unless
they understand what it is that they are buying. That can mean
understand the financials, or hiring the expertise to understand
them. No matter, stocks are not a fixed investment but fluctuate
depending on the price from another willing buyer.
Bonds have a fixed term. If they are held to maturity, the investor
will get the stated rate on the bond. If the bond is bought or sold
before maturity, it will be sold at par - the stated rate, a premium -
more than the stated rate, or a discount - less than the stated rate.
This is where the bond market gets interesting! Bonds are also issued
by government entities, a subject for another time!
Any investment is subject to a number of risks, including doing
nothing with the money! Putting the money under the mattress causes a
loss due to inflation, let alone the possibility of theft or fire.
Keeping pace with inflation can be challenging. Being aware of the
types of investments, the possible earnings and the risks associated
with them is the first step. Each investor then decides how much risk
they want to take compared to the possible risks. The huge investment
industry shows how difficult this process can be!
Today’s Market Rates
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Dow Jones Industrial Average
(Up 516.67 or 4.95% since 12/31/09)
(Up 45.65 or 4.09% since 12/31/09)
(Up 130.68 or 5.76% since 12/31/09)
|10 Year Treasury Bond Yield
On The World Wide Web
The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse answers your most frequently asked
questions about debt collection on their
The National Foundation of Credit Counseling promotes the national
agenda for financially responsible behavior. Find a bevy of consumer
Pepsi is giving away $1,300,000 each month to fund great ideas. Learn what one
young Ohio girl is doing.
Tip of the Week
The flu season is upon us. Proper washing of your hands is the best
prevention. It should take at least 20 seconds, long enough to sing
"Happy Birthday" twice. Lather up with soap and warm water. Wash
vigorously, making sure you get your palms, between fingers and the
backs of your hands. Be sure you get under your rings, they harbor
germs like crazy. Don't miss under your nails where germs especially
like to hide out.
Always wash your hands before you eat, when you are preparing food
and after you go to the bathroom. But an antibacterial soap will kill
good bacteria as well as bad, making you more susceptible to
"The right to be heard does not automatically include the right to
be taken seriously." - Hubert H. Humphrey
Today in History
1947 - President Harry Truman delivered the first address to be
televised from the White House.
In the first televised White House address, President Truman asked
the American people to stop eating meat on Tuesdays and poultry on
Thursdays to help relieve starvation in Europe.
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