I was 18 when I first fell victim to identity theft. The year was 2010, and times were much simpler then...
Shortly after making a purchase from a small online retailer, I noticed an unauthorized $40 charge on my bank statement from a bookstore I'd never even heard of. Within five minutes of contacting my bank, my compromised debit card hard been canceled, a new one had been issued, and the fraudulent charge had already been credited back to my account. All was right with the world again.I knew that anytime financial information was entered over the internet, there was a risk that it could fall into the wrong hands. I was quite surprised with how quick and painless my brush with identity theft turned out to be. I considered myself lucky. I couldn't help but think that my particular identity thieves weren't even thatbad. They were clearly avid readers, after all. Quite frankly, I was flattered. There were 7.5 billion identities in the world, and these people deemed mine worthy to steal. Everyone has to deal with this at some point in their lives, and I was just glad to get my turn out of the way early, right?
In the years since that initial incident, I've probably had my debit and credit cards compromised on at least ten different occasions. Each time, it was a longer and more complicated process dealing with the bank. Hackers seem to be getting increasingly more creative, posing threats that we didn't even think were possible. Through a process called “electronic pickpocketing,” you can have your card information stolen while you're simply walking down the street. I recently saw a news report that hackers are have figured out how to steal finger prints from “peace sign selfies” and use them to hack anything that utilizes finger print ID technology.
(Coincidentally, just a few hours after I saw that report, I had nearly $300 worth of unauthorized charges show up in my bank account. True story.)
We all know that it's crucial to use strong passwords, monitor bank accounts, and safeguard documents with personal information. As identity theft becomes more common and advanced, our assets are at a much greater risk, in ways we may not even realize.
Here are 5 unexpected tips to help you foil modern-day hackers and protect yourself from identity thieves:
You may not even think about it, but hackers can find out a lot of personal information about you from your social media profiles, such as your full birthday or your mother's maiden name. Even posts as innocent as pictures of a new puppy or a trip to your hometown can reveal answers to common security questions like “What's your pet's name?” or “In what city were you born?” We now know that “peace sign selfies” are out of the question, but they're so 2004 anyway...
All kidding aside, be smart about the information you share on your profiles and, most importantly, make sure that you have plenty of privacy settings in place.
Nothing is more relaxing than sitting in a nice internet cafe with a cup of coffee while you surf the web. However, since public WiFi networks are unsecured, it's extremely easy for hackers to see what you type while you're connected to them. To protect yourself, avoid checking your email, bank statements, or making online purchases on WiFi networks with public access.
I could write an entire post (and probably will) on tips for keeping your smart phone secure from hackers. Unfortunately, as smart phones make our lives more convenient, they also put us as higher risk of security breaches. At the very least, make sure your device is secured with a password that your Bluetooth is only on when you need it. When downloading apps, be wary of ones that could contain malware. Side note, because Google's app-vetting process isn't as strict as Apple's, Android users are at a slightly higher risk of downloading a malicious app.
Electronic pickpocketing is an alarming new trend that seems to be most prevalent in busier cities. Hackers can walk around any densely populated area with a concealed RFID reader and scan debit and credit card information of unwitting passersby. They can then use this information to create a clone debit card that can be used online, in stores, and even at ATMs. To protect yourself, purchase a wallet or card sleeve with an RFID shield. For those of you that like a good DIY project, you can make your own with a few common household materials.
“Skimmers” are devices placed over card readers on ATMs that scan the information from your debit card's magnetic strip and store it for later use. Some hackers will install small cameras over the keypad to steal the cards PIN codes, and other, more advanced hackers, will install a fake keypad over the existing one that directly captures PINs. ATMs in more remote locations are more likely to be targeted by hackers. If you see a card reader that looks suspicious, a quick jiggle of the card reader can tell you if it's been tampered-with. When in doubt, it's better to be safe than sorry and seek out a different ATM, preferably one inside a bank, grocery store, or restaurant. Be sure to report any suspicious looking ATMs as well to help protect others.
Here at ChatBeacon, we take security extremely seriously. That's why we utilize enhanced, state-of-the-art security encryption and filters in all of our products. You and your customers can rest assured that personal information will never get into the wrong hands.
For more information on our product or features, visit our product pages or start a chat with us!
Natalie Delamater, Director of Social Media
Do you have a horror story about identity theft or a tip for protecting yourself? We'd love to hear about it in the comment section below!