“Hello! I have an inheritance of $5 million I would like to split with you. I just need your bank account number and social security number in 10 days.”
Remember when the most common identity theft threat came in the form of an email from a far-away millionaire wanting to share his inheritance? Long gone are the days where threats to your personal and financial information were as blatant as these emails. Criminals have become smarter and smarter, and it has become harder and harder to guard yourself from fraud tactics.
Four of the most common fraud tactics of our time are ATM skimmers, smartphone theft or hacking, the dark web, and data breaches. In this article, we will walk you through each one of these threats and help you learn how to guard against these tactics.
1. ATM Skimmers
What are ATM skimmers?
ATM skimmers are hidden electronic devices usually attached or in close proximity to factory-installed card readers. These devices are used to steal your PIN number and information off of the magnetic strip of your debit or credit card. Skimmers consist of a skimmer and a camera or fake keypad. The skimmer is a card reader placed over an ATM slot. The camera and fake keypad are used to video tape and record your PIN number, respectively.
How to protect against them:
Jiggle the card reader. If it is easily moved, this is likely a skimmer.
- Assess the ATM for inconsistencies, such as different colored panels, out of place brand elements, or objects that appear added or tampered with.
- Examine the keypad and make sure it is consistent with other buttons on the machine and in a traditional location.
- Check the ATM for cameras above the keypad or on nearby brochure racks.
- Use your smartphone to check for nearby Bluetooth devices as these skimmers generally transmit data.
- Shield your PIN by placing your hand over the keypad.
- Keep a close watch on your financial transactions.
- Utilize contactless payment options, such as Apple Pay, Google Pay, or Samsung Pay.
2. Smartphone Theft & Hacking
Why is smartphone safety important?
Nearly 70% of Americans own and operate smartphones on a daily basis. While these devices bring convenience to communication and transactions, they also make users vulnerable to data breaches and identity theft.
How to protect your smartphone:
- Install protective software similar to computer anti-virus programs.
- Refrain from entering your personal information while connected to a public Wi-Fi network. Criminals utilize these connections to hack electronics and record personal information.
- Keep your operating systems up to date, which will ensure that you have the newest security features to guard your personal information from hackers.
- Always use passcodes or fingerprint authentications, and change your passwords regularly.
- Use a mobile kill switch. Most smartphone manufactures equip devices with a way to lock your phone and data when your device is missing or stolen.
- Do not open emails or text attachments from unknown sources.
- Utilize multi-factor authentication when available.
3. The Dark Web
What is the dark web?
The World Wide Web consists of three levels - public web, deep web, and dark web. The public web is what you traditionally think of as the internet, such as online stores, social media, and email sites. The deep web is a group of websites not indexed by search engines, such as intranets, online databases, and member-only pages. The dark web is the most hidden part of the internet and can only be accessed through specific masking and anonymizing software. This part of the web consists of encrypted networks, which are used primarily for illicit purposes including the buying and selling of personal information found by hackers and cybercriminals.
How to protect against the dark web:
- Thoroughly review financial accounts and statements.
- Use randomized, strong passwords and change them often. When setting passwords, consider using 8-12 letters, numbers, and special characters.
- Regularly monitor credit reports.
- Report suspicious financial activity immediately.
4. Data Breaches
What is a data breach?
A data breach is a confirmed incident in which large amounts of personal information held by an organization or company has been accessed or disclosed in an unauthorized manner. Personal information accessed during a data breach can includes names, social security numbers, birth dates, addresses, driver’s license numbers, and other information. While there is no way to fully protect yourself from a data breach, there are a few ways to help prevent these breaches from happening.
Tips to protect from data breaches:
- Check your credit report regularly.
- Review bank statements for unauthorized activity.
- File taxes early so identity thieves do not file your tax return first.
- Place a credit freeze on your files to prevent criminals from opening new accounts in your name.
- Implement fraud alerts on your files so that creditors will verify anyone seeking credit in your name.
- Change account passwords regularly.
The modern world of cybercriminals and hackers can seem daunting, but the tips outlined in this article can help you protect yourself and your finances. In addition, the First Service team is dedicated to protecting your financial security with the latest tools and state-of-the-art defenses to keep your account safe from predators. Visit our Security page to learn more about how First Service protects you.