Identity theft has always been a problem and is not a new crime. One means that was used was to call a person saying they had one a prize and in order to collect the prize they would need to verify some personal information. Of course, everyone at this point has probably received an email from a “Nigerian prince” who was going to pay a huge amount of money to you just to temporarily transfer money through your account. Today, with the pervasive spread of the Internet, smart phones and social media, identity theft is the most popular crime in the world.
Below are some common identity theft schemes and protection schemes:
Smart Phone : Smart phone are extremely capable computers these days. In addition since it is common for a smartphone to be used by only one person, many people automatically store passwords and other identity checks on the apps to speed up access from the phone. When the phone is lost or gets hacked via the app, all this information is at the fingertips of another person.
Solution : At the very least password protect your phone, and no “pass” is not a good password. Install a security app (the few dollars the apps cost is well worth the security it provides) that will give the location of the phone when you activate it or at the end, brick the phone if it is not found.
Social media : Many people forget to set their privacy settings properly and there have been several examples of people putting too much information out there on Facebook or other social sites where anyone can see it. In fact I heard that in one incident the police caught a felon by looking up his social media page and seeing that he had told all his friends be would be attending a wedding on a particular day! Even if you are not going to reveal personal information, remember that anything you put out on the Internet can be mined by marketeers.
Solution : Don’t give information that you don’t want marketeers to have access to. Change your settings to “friends only” so that everything is not public. This should be even easier if you use Google + by being careful about who you put into your privacy circles. Don’t accept “friend requests” from people you don’t know.
ATM : There is a card skimmer placed over the slot of the ATM where you insert your card. The card skimmer scans your card and transmits the data on the card wirelessly. Meanwhile there is a wireless hidden camera in a leaflet holder by the side of the pin pad to record your pin. With this information the thieves then copy the cards and steal money from many accounts n a very short time.
- Always shield you pin when entering it.
- Check for loosely attached readers
- Use ATMs in well lit, well trafficked areas.
Email : There are a number of phishing scams that are sent via email. They cook up some scheme to request you for private information or the PIN for your account. Some of these are cleverly disguised with a very realistic looking logo and other identifying marks.
Solution : Never reply via email to anyone with your password or SSN or PIN. Never click on a link that requires you to just enter the password. Go to the website of the bank or institution that has supposedly sent you the email and find the information mentioned in the email. Or call the number at the back of your card and tell them about the email to see how you can get to that particular site from the institution’s main page. Most of the banks will send a copy of the email to your secure mailing center. Log in to your account and check if you have the copy of the mail sent to you there.
Ultimately, while reading tips is useful to protect yourself, being aware of your surroundings and using common sense is the best protection. Do not assume that you are too small a fish and that no one is going to try and dupe you. When doing any kind of transaction try and anticipate ways in which you might try and finagle information if you were an unscrupulous person. While you may not think of every possibility, the heightened awareness will definitely help protect you.