6 Smart Ways to Keep Your Personal Information to Yourself

Disaster Recovery
Disaster Recovery

An alarming number of people still fall for personal data phishing scams despite best efforts by authorities. These cyber-attacks fall into two broad categories.

Firstly, some criminals launch direct attacks at us via emails. Secondly, others hack into ‘trusted sites’ where we provided personal information in good faith.

Whatever the case, the money is gone the moment that they rob us. More and more companies are discovering it makes good sense to teach their people how to avoid this happening.

Cautionary # 1 – Don’t Use Your Card Pin in Public Unless Unavoidable

Most card fraud happens in familiar places like popular restaurants, busy gas stations, or down at the ATM. All that’s needed is a bugged camera in the ceiling to record the pin, and an opportunity to photograph both sides of the card.

A criminal who does that now has everything they need to clone the card, and help themselves to our hard-earned money. Remember these rules:

  • Never let your card out of your sight, no matter the reason
  • Always cover your hand when you enter your pin on a POS
  • If you spot a concealed camera nearby abort the transaction
  • Use card-less transactions if the facility is available at the ATM

If a dishonest person has access to your card, and to your pin then they have a trail that leads to all your other linked accounts.  Did you know this type of fraud is common at gas stations?

Entering your pin in public can be as risky as opening a combination safe on a street corner. It may be safer to use a credit card, as opposed to a debit card because a credit card offers somewhat better protection in the event of fraud.

It’s never easy to abort a card transaction with a trader leaning over you. However, you have a right to protect your interests and you should use it.

Cautionary # 2 – Don’t Give Away Information Because Somebody Asks

If a stranger stops you in the street and asks your full name, you know to reply who are you and why. Yet we may disclose the same information readily when a news site asks for it before allowing us to read a piece of breaking news. Always take the following precautions before you agree:

  • Double-check the website address. Hackers pay quite large sums of money for incorrectly-spelled clone URLs.
  • Confirm the website is an HTTPS site with a valid certificate. Your browser and antivirus software should tip you off about this.
  • Never post your driver license or social security number on a website. Many criminals have illegal back-door access to these records. Finally, vary your user name and password between your accounts.

Cautionary # 3 – Don’t Click on Links in Emails from Financial Providers

Cyber criminals have become adept at sending fraudulent emails pretending to be from a financial institution. Most are crude and easily spotted. However, others are masterpieces of deception.

Links on criminal emails install malware and ransomware on our personal and company computers. These destroy the protection we previously enjoyed from passwords, and can empty our bank accounts in less time that it takes to alert our service provider.

This hack is easy to implement. Never click on a link in a suspicious email however enticing. Moreover, use the messaging system on the financial institution’s website instead.

Always alert your financial service provider of possible scam attempts. We must stand together on this, and not let criminals single us out and rob us.

Cautionary # 4 – Ignore Surveys and Forwarded Questionnaires

Don’t be flattered if a survey site invites you to participate. They are far more likely to want your personal information than your personal opinion. Stay a mile away from social media re-posts asking you your favorite dog’s name, birth date, or anniversary.

Many people still base their passwords on these familiar words and numbers. Perhaps it is time to review all our passwords in the light of this threat?

Cautionary # 5 – Beware the Social Media

We are not saying you should not use these. However, we do need to remain constantly vigilant because Facebook, Twitter, Snap Chat and Gmail all sell the data we provide in our profiles. They have all done this in the past, and moreover advertisers use it to find leads.

Delete your profile, or make it secret. Be careful about posting personal information about yourself on the internet. Somebody may already be stalking you. You could be about to give away the final clue.

Cautionary # 6 – Test a Card Reader in Case it is Fake

Always insert your card into the slot yourself. Thieves insert fake readers in and behind ATM slots. They have everything they need to drain your account or make unauthorized purchases if they are also using a camera to record your pin.

To detect a fake reader, try to wiggle the card or squeeze the slot. If in any doubt decline the transaction and report your concerns to the vendor. Ultimately we have to protect ourselves using the following strategy:

  • Enable free transaction alerts to your email or phone so you instantly know about unexpected transactions
  • Check your surrounds carefully for anything that could conceal a camera. Make sure there is no plastic sheath in the reader
  • Walk away if you sense someone is watching you, or the machine ‘does not look right’
  • Never write your pin down and carry it in your wallet or purse that could be stolen
  • Stand close to the machine and cover the keypad or screen with your other hand as you type
    • If somebody offers to help you, cancel the transaction, remove your card, and walk away
  • Check your card and bank account statements daily. Call the service provider if in any doubt.

Stay up to date with the latest scams and dodges, and how to avoid them. Pass this information on to children and seniors. Post it on your social media sites too. Knowledge is the only effective defense against cybercrime.

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