Video: Dunn’s dilemma

By Senior producer
msnbc.com
updated 9/26/2006 5:31:00 PM ET 2006-09-26T21:31:00
COMMENTARY

Former Hewlett-Packard Chairman Patricia Dunn had a little problem on her hands.

It's been reported that someone on her board was leaking sensitive information, blabbing secrets to folks in the tech business.  So, she hired spies to obtain the phone records of employees and the reporters they may have been talking to.

It seems awfully sneaky.  I certainly wouldn't want my employer digging into my personal phone records.  But I was a bit surprised that that story had legs for so many days.

What was I missing?  I don't own stock in HP and I have no interest in the spy tactics of that company.  Does the everyday person watching at home really want to hear about this story?

They should.

The tale of HP corporate snooping is proving to be like an onion.  You peel off one layer, and there are many more beneath it, each thicker and juicier.

It isn't so much what these hired detectives allegedly did for Dunn.  It is how they did it, and the fact that they were able to do it at all.

Using a social engineering tactic called pretexting, these guys faked their way into some confidential information.  They duped major telecom companies into releasing phone records.

"Pretexting" means the practice of getting your personal information under false pretenses, and it is the fastest growing scam in the scam world.


Scammers can call your bank or a phone company and pretend to be you.  The right piece of information, like an account number or a password, will unlock all the rest of the information.

There are some things you can do to avoid pretexting snares.

First, we all get phone calls from survey organizations, especially around election time.  I usually just hang up.  I'm not the most patient person in the world.

If for some reason you are craving conversation with a trained telemarketer, by all means, chat away.  But you should never disclose your social security number or  bank information in a survey, nor should they ask.

Next, make sure your bank information is protected with a password people can't guess.  Don't use your child's name or something really obvious like your own nickname.  Pick something hard.

Never give away personal information to unsolicited callers or e-mailers.  This seems like common sense, but we wouldn't be having this discussion if people practiced common sense, now would we?

Finally, shred everything!  I love shredders.  They are fun.  And you can use the confetti to stuff boxes this Christmas!

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