In the age of information technology, we as consumers have got very reliant on luxuries like online banking, shopping and social communication. This reliance on technology also comes with some potentially alarming negatives. For one, every time we login online it increases the probability of our passwords and account numbers being stolen by hackers and being sold on the black market. From there, criminals will buy your “information” in an effort to open up accounts in your name.
Even as the cases of identity theft rise, credit card theft has been on a slight decline but it is still the most common form of identity theft. There are many obvious reasons for this, from the ease of online account access to pre-approved offers via snail mail to someone physically stealing your card.
In the past, physically losing your card was about the only way your charge account could be comprised. But these days, identity thieves can do major damage to your credit history without ever seeing your card.
One popular way of gaining access to your accounts is to install spyware or malware scripts on websites, phishing emails or bundled into software downloads or media torrents. Users that do not use a firewall or anti-virus software are putting a bulls-eye target directly on their bank accounts. Malware can be installed on open computers and the next time you login to your bank account or credit card account, that data is comprised.
The most common method for this type of theft involves the use of key loggers that can be installed with to record every keystroke you make. Once the program detects a similar pattern of keystrokes, the program can call out to a remote database and send your passwords over before you even realize anything is off.
Another common trap and is public wifi spots. These are well known for security problems but still seem to be a favorite among id theft groups. For one, they know that while people are on vacation or traveling, they have no choice but use public hotspots for internet access. The sophistication that goes into this type of ‘open’ network stealing is shocking. From routers setup just for this scenario at resorts and casino’s to thieves spending excessive time at Starbucks just waiting for the next unsuspecting consumer to check in on their checking account online.
5 Steps To Secure Your Credit Information Online
- Only log into secures sites (https:// protocol)
- When shopping only, use virtual credit card numbers
- Do not ever reply to an email that is requesting sensitive information
- Do not use the same password for your eBay, email and banking accoutns (do not sue your child’s name either)
- Do not download programs or media from unknown sites
Technology has also made it easier for the older, more established method of pulling data off of your physical credit card too. The use of “skimmers”- which are electronic card readers that often look just like what you would find at an ATM or gas station pump, can be used very discretely. This type of device stores your card information electronically and use it whenever they please.
Once your financial information has been comprised the visibility of this data can grow exponentially in a short amount of time. They tend to spend like wildfire (play on words there) in order to maximize their use of your account before a detectable paper trial is available. On the other hand, there has been a recent trend in id theft that involves your stolen data being “frozen” for a set amount of time and then used for a few small transactions every month or two. This is why you really should be monitoring your credit reports and more importantly carefully reading over your bank and credit statements every month.
Using a credit card provides the identity thief with some degree of anonymity and instant gratification if they are able to open a account in someone else’s name.
In order to secure your credit, you need to take a pro-active approach and try to minimize your risk.