Technology has changed the way people think about their security, as physical harm and property theft have taken a backseat against the ever-growing risks of cyberthreats and identity theft. It used to take a lot of effort for someone to get a hold of a credit card or take the imprint of the carbon copies out of the trash or an office complex dumpster. These days, it only takes few button pushes or a cleverly designed skimmer to get a hold of hundreds of credit accounts or personal data files. There was a massive breach in 2017 with Equifax, and Capitol One experienced a significant breach in July of 2019. This only raised more awareness about the potential risk surrounding personal information stored online or in company servers.
The Options for Criminals
The dark web is crawling with hackers and skimmers, and those looking to purchase illegally obtained data from them. Hackers take personal information, whether social security numbers, credit card account numbers, or banking information, and sell them to those looking to profit from the information of the unsuspecting victim. While there are some very complex hacking schemes that attack the major lending companies and financial institutions, these don’t represent the bulk of the risks with your credit. Your credit card information is susceptible to other forms of attack, and knowing how thieves will operate can protect you from credit fraud. By signing up for credit monitoring alerts, you can keep on top of any suspicious activity associated with any of your credit card accounts. Being vigilant against these tactics can help prevent an incident from occurring.
It is getting harder and harder to keep your phone protected from robot-dialers and scammers. Fraudulent phone calls are taking the form of a special sale offer or a unique vacation trip that you have mysteriously won. There are also calls indicating your social security number has been compromised and the caller needs to verify certain information, such as the numbers of the credit accounts issued in your name. Many companies will issue consumer alerts that are well-identified by email or letter whenever a breach or questionable activity occurs, giving you a better idea of what to do when consulted by phone. Your safest option is to hang up whenever you don’t recognize who is calling or when they ask for money for an item you never signed up to purchase. Never give your information out over the phone with a company or individual that you aren’t comfortable with or feel pressured to make an instant decision.
One of the more common ways to steal credit card data is through skimming. There are several ways this is being done. At some gas stations and ATMs, illegally placed plastic devices over the card processor will skim your card information while you conduct your transaction. Prior skimmers used to be quite obvious and clunky, yet the newer machines coming from the criminal world have been created to fit snugly onto the reader, making it difficult to detect. Once the data has been skimmed, the criminals will either come back to the scene and retrieve the device, or the data will be transmitted via a Bluetooth connection. Skimming has also become a concern with restaurant or bar purchases, as some skimming devices are used by dishonest employees when taking your payment for your meal or drink. Many dining facilities have the staff taking your credit card back to their workstation to run the payment, and being out of sight makes it easy for someone who wants to take your information. In addition to checking your card statements for unknown or unauthorized purchases, avoid purchasing gas or other items from low-traffic convenience stores or gas stations.
Advance Fee Payments
Consumers are always looking for a better rate for their credit accounts, but sometimes a lesser-known credit card company offering you a better rate and payment terms is simply a scam waiting to happen. You give them your information to open your account and you pay the enrollment fee upfront, but then you never hear from them again. Once the fake company has your information, they can sell it to another dishonest individual for an illicit activity or they could use your information to make their own purchases. While you may want to get the best deal for your money, it’s not worth become of credit card fraud. There are ways to validate credit card offers, and you should only trust your information with reputable banks and credit card companies. Stay away from any enrollment or membership that requires a fee upfront in order to receive a better lending rate. The chances are the company will be illegitimate.
Use of Malware and Viruses
The use of technology has also made it easier for your data to be stolen through your electronic devices. Hackers will install damaging software that will infiltrate networks or computers with malware or virus. This usually happens on a website that has low security, and when you access the same website, the virus is downloaded to your computer, giving the criminals the ability to get your information. It can be difficult to assess just how much of your information is compromised, but there is the fear that there is enough to put your identity at risk. Hackers will also install malware on public computers, such as libraries or internet cafes, taking any information that you may put on those computers when you use them. Retailers, banks, and other businesses are all susceptible to computer hacking attacks as well. Tablets, smartphones, and laptops can also be infected with viruses or malware, especially when connected to a public Wi-Fi source. Email attachments from unknown senders that seem vaguely familiar are one of the ways hackers will use to get their malware download to your device. Use extreme caution with your device connections, and invest in a malware or virus protection package. Firewalls can help deter threats to a laptop or hard drive, and there are also apps that can be used for smartphone protection.
Awareness is a strong defense against credit card fraud, but don’t stop there. Take action to have your credit monitored, and be vigilant in checking your statements. Use caution with any communication asking for your credit card information or social security number.