United States Secret Service Special Agent Andrew Kiger spoke to the Moody Area Chamber of Commerce members at their monthly luncheon last week. Kiger works out of the Birmingham Field Office in the Financial Crimes Task Force.

He and his family are originally from Nashville. Kiger was a police officer for over eight years working vehicle accidents and homicides when he was encouraged to apply for a Secret Service job, which was a six-month process. He spent six years in Little Rock, Arkansas with his first assignment working financial crimes and then began the second phase of his career to learn about investigations and projection assignments.

Kiger moved onto Washington, D.C. in the Special Ops division and worked six years protecting the President and foreign leaders coming to the U.S. Because of the large amount of travel in this division, he decided to transfer to Birmingham to work investigations in the Financial Crimes division so that he could be home more with his family. Now, he works with members all over the state to investigate financial crimes.

Kiger likes his job because it’s never the same and he is employed by the first and smallest Federal agency in the U.S.

“A different day means a different job,” Kiger said. “It has been a great way to see the world for free. One day I’m investigating a financial crime and the next day, protecting the President of the United States.”

Kiger shared some very important information to help area business owners protect themselves and their businesses from financial crimes. Some of these crimes now include fuel pump skimmers. One of these skimmers was detected recently at a pump in Moody and was discovered before it was used. Criminals can now install the skimmers internally where you can’t see them and sit in their car using Bluetooth technology and retrieve your credit or debit card information without ever having to go back to the pump.

ATM overlays are just a small magnetic strip to skim your credit or debit card information when you swipe at an ATM to get cash.

“Anytime you visit an ATM, pull hard on the whole unit, because it may have an overlay strip on it,” advised Kiger. “These criminals don’t care. They may sell 100 credit cards for $50. It’s nothing to them.”

Identity theft is another problem. If you purchase something at online retailers like Amazon, the product you are buying may not be coming from Amazon because it may be a third party from overseas that can retrieve your information.

Pay close attention to unauthorized transactions with your debit or credit card statements, your bank or investment accounts, suspicious mail and email like unsolicited email regarding unknown accounts or credit cards. Always look at the email address on incoming emails and never click on attachments unless you are certain you know the source, because it can open up your computer to malware and criminals can then access your computer.

Beware of telemarketing calls, especially, for new credit cards. These calls are usually scams. You will give them your information, but you are not going to get a new credit card. They just got your information that can be used for their own financial gain.

“These criminals are smart. They run credit reports on you and research you before they ever contact you,” said Kiger. “They know your business. They know your mortgage. They may call you and tell you that you have an unexplained decrease in your credit score from being behind on your credit card payments. They may threaten you and say if you do not wire the money right away, that they will come after you. Older people are the most vulnerable. Senior citizens can be intimidated into complying with these criminals and then they have lost the money forever.”

“Remember that law enforcement will never request money by phone or threaten you with an arrest if you hang up. That’s a red flag that it’s a scam,” continued Kiger.

If you haven’t received any mail for a couple of days, someone may have re-routed your mail to see who your accounts are with.

“After they evaluate and develop a plan, these jokers can shut you out of your accounts and take your money,” Kiger warned. “It’s happening right here in Alabama and right here in Moody, Leeds and Oxford so don’t think it can’t happen here. It does!”

Kiger advised attendees to shred all financial documents, to protect social security cards and not carry it around with you. You can access a free credit report once a year from www.annualcreditreport.com. Close any accounts that you are not using.

Business Email Compromise (BEC) is another current issue where companies are targeted who conduct wire transfers and have suppliers abroad. Often, they impersonate the CEO or any executive authorized to do wire transfers.

Kiger listed ways for businesses and individuals to protect their information: Utilize online security in all Internet activity; Only download from reputable sites or people; Scan downloaded files and heavily scrutinize sites that request your credentials and avoid password reuse; Cyber criminals use popular television shows to spread malware. If you visit a website and a pop-up says you need to update your Adobe Flash Player, don’t click on it, because it may contain malware. Go to Adobe.com directly and update your flash player.

Ransomware locks down your computer and the cybercriminal wants money to give back your computer access. Passwords are cracked with programs that scan 841 million passwords per second and faster.

“Embezzlement cases are also alive and well,” warned Kiger. “Never put too much faith in your workers. It only takes that one to find out that the person has stolen from you for years. Always have checks and balances. Have regular audits. Make sure computer and software providers you use are good and reputable companies. Get all of the software updates. Make sure all ports on credit card machines are shut down on ports that you are not using. People can find open ports.”

“Bottom line is to protect yourself. Protect your business,” said Kiger. “The good news is that the success rate is 50% of retrieving the loss, if the secret service knows about it within 24 hours.”

For more information or to report any financial crimes, contact the Secret Service Financial Crimes Task Force in Birmingham at 205-731-1144.

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