It’s no secret that thieves and hackers want your personal information, but if you’re familiar with some of the more common theft scenarios, you’ll also know how to avoid them.
We’ll walk you through different ways your information might be stolen so that you know how to protect yourself.
Be mindful of your wallet to avoid physical theft: While you might think that all credit card theft is digital, there are plenty of low-tech ways someone could get their hands on your card, cell phone, or other personal information. This doesn’t even necessarily mean that someone has plucked your wallet out of your pocket. Thieves can easily take advantage of our own absentmindedness to grab something left on the table of a restaurant or the like. The solution, of course, is to keep your eyes on your personal belongings. Make sure you are not leaving things behind, and that your most important belongings are securely stored when you’re on the go.
You can also have identity information stolen from your mail or even the trash, which is an easy way for a thief to get enough information to steal your identity and open up credit cards or take out loans in your name. Though you can’t do much about stolen mail, you can be sure that no one’s getting anything from your trash by shredding mail with any personal information on it—especially credit card applications, which sometimes arrive partially filled out.
Watch out for credit card skimming: Though it doesn’t involve physically stealing your card, thieves can “skim” data off a credit card if they can swipe it (or get you to swipe it) through their own card reader. This could mean a clerk swiping a card through a reader before they make your transaction, or it could mean an ATM that a hacker has installed a skimming device on.
The solution here is to make sure you’re doing business with trustworthy establishments and that you keep an eye on your card to be sure it isn’t being misused when you hand it over. If you’re making a withdrawal at an ATM, make sure the ATM looks normal. If anything seems amiss, it’s probably better to skip making a transaction.
Keep your computer secure from digital thieves: There are lots of ways a tech-savvy thief can separate you from your credit card and other personal information. Fortunately, keeping your computer secure will prevent most of these problems.
Here’s what you should look out for:
- Your computer might be compromised with a virus or keylogger that collects passwords and personal information. Making sure you’re running anti-virus software that’s up to date will prevent this from happening.
- You may be tricked into entering personal information on a scam website, which might look a lot like a legitimate website. Here, you just have to be careful. Be sure to think before you enter any information. Always check the source by looking at the address bar, and make sure you’re where you should be. If you are still not sure, call customer service before handing over any information.
- Similarly, you might get a phone call or email that offers you something, such as a free trip. Or the caller might be more demanding by indicating that your account may be closed for some reason or another; however the matter can resolve by providing personal information or a credit card number.These are almost always scams, so be wary if you run into something that seems too good, or too bad, to be true. If something seems off, it probably is. Hang up and call customer service to confirm before giving up any personal information.
- A website or company you use may be hacked, exposing your information to thieves. Though there’s no sure-fire solution here, you should only give your personal data to companies you trust.
- Someone who knows your password may use it to buy things or collect personal information. The answer here is simple: don’t share your passwords!
- Someone may be watching your traffic on an unsecured Wi-Fi network to collect personal information. So be sure you giving out personal or sensitive information over public Wi-Fi, and that your home network is secure.
Now that you know about these types of fraud, hopefully you’re better prepared to avoid them in the future. Good luck!