About one-half of American adults have had their information hacked in to by scammers.
Fraud can occur anywhere, so it's now more important than ever to check all of your bank statements, credit card statements and to review your credit report every quarter.
Unfortunately, Here are five reasons why the actions you took may have increased the chance you will be the victim of fraud, and what to do if you have been hacked so that your identity is protected.
1. You used wireless Internet that was not password protected.
Do you frequent coffee shops, or log in online to any type of public wireless Internet connection that is not password protected?
If so, the data on your computer may be at risk. Hackers love unsecured networks because they are easy to access and provide them with a great number of people to steal information from.
They can also tap into your computer directly to view documents and other pieces of personal information stored on your device, so be conscious of this as well.
Avoid logging into wireless connections that are not password protected. Look into buying software that will encrypt the data on your computer so you are protected in the event someone does try and access your personal information.
Hackers will find it more difficult to access your information when it is protected through encryption, increasing the chance they will ignore your data.
2. You regularly conduct banking transactions through public Internet
Completing banking transactions through your computer, table, or smartphone in public can put your bank account information at risk. Banks do their best to encrypt the data that is transmitted, but hackers may still be able to retrieve your login information to use at a later date.
Unless absolutely necessary, avoid conducting banking transactions online in a public setting.
3. You continuously use ATMs in sketchy locations
Card skimmer devices are sometimes placed at ATMs or other places where you swipe your debit or credit card. Scammers use the device to steal your card information and make a copy of it.
If you suspect the card reader you are about to use has a skimmer on it, jiggle the card reader to make sure it's securely attached to the machine.
Also, reconcile your bank statements to ensure there isn't any suspicious activity.
Thieves are sneaky -- they will use your card information to steal smaller amounts from your account -- anywhere from $10 to $50 worth of transactions a week because they are hoping victims won't notice.
Report any unauthorized activity to your bank immediately or you may be liable for old charges on your account.
The most common places for card-skimming:
Prime targets for card skimmers are ATMs that are located in dimly-lit locations, tucked inside the corner of a store, or left alone with little to no surveillance. It is easier to for criminals to attach and remove card skimmers without anyone noticing.
Self-service gas stations have such high amounts of debit card activity that signals a very rewarding proposition for card skimmers. Unlike bank ATMs, It’s difficult to tell whether or not there is a card skimmer at the payment terminals of gas stations, so most people don’t even notice something wrong.
While card-skimming tends to be a faceless crime, it’s an activity that can be carried out by seemingly friendly people. Shady restaurant employees have been known carry portable card skimmers to steal card information when patrons hand over their cards to pay the bill.
4. You shopped at a major retailer who has had their data breached by hackers
Anyone who has shopped at a retailer that has suffered a data breach should to pay close attention to their financial statements. Even if you may not have been impacted yet, your information was still exposed. Some scam artists wait several months to strike before they attempt to carry out fraud.
Stay up-to-date on the latest news to know which places you have shopped at may have had their data breached.
Consider changing your credit or debit card information if you think your information has been compromised.
Call your bank or credit card company directly to ask for a new card number. Keep in mind, if you ask for a new credit card number and a bill is directly linked to that card, you should update that as well.
5. You opened an Internet link via text from an unknown number.
A scam artist can acquire your phone number without much difficulty, especially if you have your phone number on public display through social media or anywhere else on the web.
Hackers find phone numbers of people and send them a fake text with a web link that claims to provide some type of exclusive deal or bargain, except the link is fake and opens your phone to allow the hacker to retrieve data from it.
Be wary from texts you receive from unfamiliar numbers and always avoid clicking on any links from random numbers. Block the number and delete any texts you receive to ensure you or someone else using your phone does not click on the link.
Are you aware your computer's information can be stolen while you are connected to wireless Internet?
Falling for a wireless Internet scam can be worse than having your credit card information stolen.
Not only can hackers steal your credit card information, they can also steal other sensitive information such as your bank login information, social security number, and other data straight from your computer.
The best way to avoid being scammed when using wireless Internet is to be conscious of the different types of scams hackers try to commit, and where they commit them.
Hackers have created a variety of ways to work their way into your computer, and this poses a threat to all of the information on your device. Protect yourself by learning how to avoid falling for a scam, and how to protect your computer.
3 Lesser-Known Wi-Fi Scams
Wireless Internet via air travel is not as secure as once thought. Wi-Fi on most commercial airliners is no safer than an unsecured network at a public location.
It was commonly believed that wireless Internet on commercial flights had a secure layer of protection, but this is not the case.
Take note of this and avoid logging into your bank account or other financial websites where your valuable information could be stolen.
Most hotels secure their wireless Internet with a password, but some leave it wide open for anyone to access. Some people book a hotel room for the sole intent to steal other guest’s information.
Avoid conducting any type of activity on the Internet that reveals bank account information, passwords for your email, or other important information with sensitive data.
Remember, there are also people who set up fake Wi-Fi hotspots. Hackers either create a fake wireless Internet connection for hotels that do not offer the service, or they create a second connection to fool guests.
If you see a wireless connection for a hotel that did not previously mention wireless Internet as part of the accommodations, you are definitely going to want to call the front desk to verify whether or not it is indeed to hotel’s Internet connection.
3. Wi-Fi at work
If your employer offers free Wi-Fi, they may be putting your information at risk. It may be a nice gesture for them to leave their wireless Internet open without a password, but this enables scammers to easily phish for data.
Avoid using wireless Internet when an employer offers it without password protection.
If you care about your employer and fellow employees, inform them of the dangers that an open network can provide. Let your boss know that everyone’s information could be at risk, including the company’s sensitive data.
Think you're slick by connecting to a Wi-Fi connection from another company in your building? Well, the joke may be on you.
Hackers can easily set up fake Wi-Fi hotspots in business buildings to lure in people who want to leach off of the free Internet.
Since there are a lot of wireless hotspots in a building, a lot of hackers target these areas as places to phish for data.
You should only connect to wireless hotspots that you know and trust, not random connections you conveniently find.
How to protect yourself
There are a variety of ways you can protect the information on your computer while you are using it. Use the following tips to avoid having your information stolen:
- Buy software that encrypts the actual data on your computer. Protect your important files with a layer of encrypted protection so that hackers cannot access your documents to find out information about you. Hackers won't be able to steal any information on your computer, even if they somehow manage to access your computer's files.
- Turn off automatic sharing on your computer, as you may unknowingly allow someone else to easily access your computer to view all of the information inside. Before you begin using your computer check to make sure you turned off automatic sharing.
- Install a firewall to make it difficult for someone to see what you are doing when browsing the Internet.
- Turn off your computer's Wi-Fi when you are not on the Internet. If you are reviewing documents or looking at photos, there's no real need to remain connected to the Internet. Turn off your wireless Internet connection to prevent someone else from sneaking their way onto your computer.