NewsPinellas County


CEO of local cybersecurity firm nearly get identity stolen

Posted at 5:40 PM, Sep 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-22 08:17:35-04

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Identity theft is on the rise across the country and the state of Florida, according to federal investigators.

They say criminals are getting to people through social media, bank apps, emails and much more. Anyone can be a victim, even Stu Sjouwerman.

Sjouwerman is the founder and CEO of Knowbe4. It’s a cybersecurity firm based in Clearwater.

Hackers have tried to steal Sjouwerman’s identity twice in recent months. He said the first time someone tried to apply for a loan with the small business administration. He believes they would have gotten away with it if the Small Business Administration had not called Stu to confirm.

“Thanks to some alert people that were well trained to basically identify fraud stopped that attack from happening,” he said.

Then someone used his identity and picture to create a Facebook page. Sjouwerman said that person started contacting his employees asking for money.

“They were talking completely different from the way I talk,” he said. “The people in my company alerted me and Facebook."

Stu is now trying to get that Facebook page deleted.

FBI could not say how many cases they’re investigating. But, they did say criminals are specifically targeting people out of work due to the pandemic, and most are using social media.

“There’s a term for it,” Sjouwerman said. “It’s called social engineering. It’s tricking people to do something against their own best interest.”

In Sjouwerman’s case, he was fortunate the people who stole his identity contacted the SBA and his employees. They are trained to look for scams.

What everyone else? The FBI said you should regularly check your credit report. Don’t open emails with attachments from people you don’t know, and freeze your accounts if you have to.

“You need to create sufficient awareness,” Sjouwerman said. “In the days of the internet, robbers are online and they’re trying to get to you through the internet.”