It is absolutely alarming how many ways identity thieves can get your personal information without your awareness. The majority of us will be involved in an online scam or breach of some sort. We hear about breaches of large companies. It happens to small companies too. Sometimes hackers get information from small companies to get through to larger companies. The best way to prevent your information from being stolen it is to be educated. Know what to do and what not to do.
In one of the sessions I went to at WordCamp Kansas City 2017, Mark Vasquez and Michael Rattenne from UMB Financial, talked about information security.
We hear about online and phone scams, but they can happen in person too. Make sure when networking, you are aware of the information you are giving out and who you are giving it to. Sometimes all a hacker needs is your cell phone service provider and cell phone number. Once they have that, they can access email addresses, passwords and PINs. Yes, that information should be given only to the customer who uses that cell phone number, but hackers are good at convincing service providers they are someone else.
Social engineers and scammers come across as nice people who want to help you. Scamming companies hire people who are nice, on purpose.
So what can you do to prevent identity theft?
Beware of webcams. They can pick up information not only within camera range around your computer, but can also be linked to other information on the same network, such as your home security system. The best thing to do is to make sure you have a good reputable security software suite installed on your computer, and keep it up to date. The free packages are ok but the ones you have to pay for are even better.
Fingerprints are replacing the use of passwords more and more. They can be used to unlock your cell phone or to log into apps on your phone. These are more secure than passwords because you are the only one who has your fingerprint, right? Well, sort of. Yes, they are more difficult to steal, but beware of putting photos of yourself online that show your fingertips. If the photo is high enough resolution, a hacker can zoom in and capture your fingerprint, which can later be used to log into what you thought was a secure account.
In spam emails look for misspellings, bad grammar and punctuation. A lot of email scams come from countries where English is not the first language. Mouse over links in the email to see where the link will take you before you click on it. If it looks suspicious, don’t click on it. If you sign up to be on an email newsletter list and decide you no longer want to receive emails, you can conveniently click on the “unsubscribe” link most of them provide. If you are not familiar with the person or company who sent you the email, DO NOT click on the “unsubscribe” link because that will confirm to them you are using a legit email address, and can only increase the amount of spam you receive. To be on the safe side, you can go into the profile of accounts you know you’re signed up for and change your preferences there.
I hope this information has been helpful, even though I may have scared you. It’s ok to be scared, but be educated and equipped.