Thursday, October 22, 2015


The numbers are shocking: Personal information from 76 million households may have been compromised as part of the cyber-attack on JPMorgan Chase. That is the equivalent of two out of every three households in the United States, though a small portion of those affected may be overseas. The intrusion compromised the names, addresses, phone numbers and emails of those households, and can basically affect anyone — customers past and present — who logged onto any of Chase and JPMorgan’s websites or apps. That might include those who get access to their checking and other bank accounts online or someone who checks their credit card points over the web. Seven million small businesses also were affected.

While nobody knows what the hackers are planning to do with the data from JPMorgan — if anything at all — privacy experts say the biggest risk is that the thieves will try to extract more sensitive information from affected consumers.  “It would give the thief a call log of who to victimize, but that in and of itself is not enough to steal someone’s identity,” said Matt Davis, a senior victims adviser at the Identity Theft Resource Center. “That is the silver lining there.” There is no evidence that account numbers, passwords, user IDs, dates of birth or Social Security numbers were compromised, according to the bank, nor did the bank suggest that customers change their passwords.

 “I think it is always good practice to regularly watch your accounts,” said Trish Wexler, a JPMorgan spokeswoman. “That is just good financial hygiene.”

It is possible that the thieves could sell the JPMorgan data to others, who could then combine it with publicly available information, found through census data or social media, said Pam Dixon, executive director at the World Privacy Forum, a public interest research group. They could then create sophisticated — and very convincing — emails that targeted individual consumers, a practice known as spear phishing. The goal is to trick consumers into providing Social Security numbers or user names and passwords.

“I would be very conscious of the email you get in the next year, which could be related to this hack,” Ms. Dixon said. “They are really hard to detect. It’s not like, ‘Send me money in the Philippines.’ ”

Legitimate financial services companies, retailers, cellphone companies, government agencies like the Internal Revenue Service and other providers will not (or at least should not) request personal information in an email. But if a customer detects something suspicious about an email, they should contact the company that supposedly sent it. They should not, however, use the phone number in the email — that is likely only to put them in touch with the criminals. The Federal Bureau of Investigation also advises consumers to enter website addresses manually (or, at least, to do a web search for them). In other words, do not follow links inside the email. If a customer’s bank account ultimately is compromised, they will not be held liable for any unauthorized transactions, but they should contact JPMorgan immediately.

Those who want to add a layer of security to their financial life should consider a “security freeze,” one of the strongest tools against theft because it prevents someone from trying to open a new account in a consumer’s name. When you freeze your reports, the big three credit bureaus will not release your credit reports to any company that does not already have a relationship with you. Financial providers and other companies typically request such reports before issuing a new account.

Consumers need to approach each of the three credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — and may need to pay a small fee, depending on where they live. The process can be a hassle because the freeze has to be “thawed,” or lifted, to apply for a new credit card, for instance, or for a mortgage. (And consumers may need to keep PINs and other information handy to do that). But the extra effort may be easier than trying to undo the mess created by a thief.

Then there is the boilerplate advice that all consumers should heed: Regularly monitor all of your accounts; read every transaction on your credit statement every month; and check each of your three credit reports regularly, which you are allowed to do free at least once a year through

Consumers may be desensitized by now, given the frequency and breadth of cyber-attacks on retailers like Home Depot, Target, Michaels, Neiman Marcus and others. Many may even assume that some hacker, somewhere, already has at least some of their personal information. “Security is out of your control,” said Bruce Schneier, a computer security expert. “The only thing you can do is agitate for laws about regulating third-party use of your data and how they store it, use it and collect it.”

COLLEGE CHRONICLES – DAVID SKORTON, former Cornell president and now 13th Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, was welcomed to town with an elegant Metropolitan Club reception hosted Monday evening by Dr. Elena and Robert Allbritton, Ann and Knight Kiplinger, Austin Kiplinger, and Cathy Merrill and Paul Williams.

--Robert is landlord for Skorton and his wife, Robin Davisson, and joked during the remarks that this gives new meaning to keeping "your friends close, but your enemies closer." Skorton had one of the funnier lines we've ever heard at a gathering like this, saying he had given cards to many in the room -- and if he hadn't, it probably meant that Cathy, a Cornell alumnus and longtime friend, had "pulled me aside and said 'Don't waste a card' on you." Guess you had to be there.

BUDGET DEFICIT FALLS - Per Treasury: "The deficit in FY 2015 fell to $439 billion, $44 billion less than the FY 2014 deficit and $144 billion less than forecast in President Obama's FY 2016 Budget. As a percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the deficit fell to 2.5 percent, the lowest since 2007 and less than the average of the last 40 years. In dollar terms, the FY 2015 deficit was the lowest since 2007 as well."

CANADA GOES LEFT! - Justin Trudeau's Liberal party was heading for a stunning victory in Monday's Canadian general election, ousting Stephen Harper and his Conservatives from their near-decade reign over a country now hit by the oil price crash and an economic recession. ... Less than an hour after polls closed across the country, the Liberal party was projected to win 189 seats with 40 per cent of the popular vote, according to Elections Canada, the government election agency. ...

The wider than expected margin appeared to be at the expense of the leftwing New Democratic party, which was on track to win only 35 seats, while the Conservatives were heading for 103. The results were far more favorable for the Liberals than had been predicted by pre-election polls, which projected a slim minority win for Mr Trudeau's party. They also marked a sharp turnaround from the 2011 election when the Conservatives crushed the Liberals, winning 166 seats to the Liberals' 34.

Canada’s Conservative Party has been ousted after almost a decade in power, as voter discontent and a souring economy helped sweep Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau into the top office. After turning his party into a national political force, Prime Minister Stephen Harper failed to make a lasting impact with middle-of-the-road voters in the country’s central and eastern regions. Amid the faltering economy, his opponent’s newcomer status may have played into a deep-seated desire for change. Here are five things we can expect from the government of Canada’s newly elected premier—the 43-year-old son of the country’s long-serving Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.

BIRTHDAYS THIS WEEK – Birthday wishes and thoughts this week to: Mike Barnicle (62), Boss, Mass. Jackson Browne (67), Austin, TX. Erin Gratz ….famous keeper of the faith, Jennifer Holiday (55) Las Vegas, NV. Angela Lansbury (90), New York, NY. John Lithgow (70) Pinehurst, NC. Joe Pepitone (75) Tampa, FL. Tom Petty (65) Woodland Hills, CA.

THE SWAMI’S NHL Preseason Picks –

The Swami makes his preseason selections on what NHL hockey teams will rule in 2015-16:

Eastern Conference:             Atlantic – Montreal Canadians        Metropolitan – New York Islanders
Other Playoff teams: NY Rangers, Washington Capitals, Tampa Bay Lightning, Detroit Red Wings, Ottawa Senators, Pittsburgh Penguins

Western Conference:  Central – St. Louis Blues    Pacific – Los Angeles Kings
Other Playoff teams: Chicago Blackhawks, Winnipeg Jets, Minnesota Wild, Anaheim Ducks, Dallas Stars, Vancouver Canucks

Eastern Finals: Montreal Canadians over the New York Islanders
Western Finals: Anaheim Ducks over the Dallas Stars

Stanley Cup Finals: Montreal Canadians over Anaheim Ducks

NFL PICK OF THE WEEK – Sunday 10/25, 1:00 PM ET CBS: Houston Texans (2-4) at Miami Dolphins (2-3), the loser can expect a long season: Texans 24 Dolphins 21 Season to date (3-3)

COLLEGE FOOTBALL PICK OF THE WEEK – Saturday 10/24, 4:00 PM ET ESPN: #15 Texas A&M Aggies (5-1) at #24 University of Mississippi Rebels (4-2): SEC at its finest, Ole Miss 35 Aggies 28. Season to date (4-3)

SMALL COLLEGE FOOTBALL PICK OF THE WEEK – Saturday 10/24, 7:00 PM ET HGTV: University of La Verne Leopards (4-1) at University of Redlands Bulldogs (2-3): First place on the line in the SCIAC, La Verne in an upset 24 – 21. Season to date (6-1)


(NCAA, Oct. 24) #8 Wheaton Illinois Thunder (6-0) vs. #16 North Central Illinois Cardinals (4-2), The Thunder prevail 42 – 35.

Season to date (77-50)

MARKET WEEK –The S&P 500 is coming off its best weekly gain of the year, and the Dow has risen for six straight sessions as investors begin a new week. The fate of the market rally could well depend on the increasing pace of corporate earnings in the coming weeks, as well as how economic data fuels speculation about what may happen at the late October meeting of Federal Reserve policymakers.

Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer said Sunday Fed policymakers are still likely to raise interest rates this year, but that could change if the global economy pushes the United States off course.

However, Chinese Finance Minister Lou Jiwei told China Business News now is not the time for the Fed to hike rates. Lou said global economic weakness is due to lack of demand in developed markets.

Next week: Fall in the garden and Dear Rink Rats.

Until Next Monday, Adios.

Claremont, CA
October 22, 2015


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