Protect your identity . . . your good name

If your identity is stolen, you can lose everything. Your identity may be the most important thing you have, but many people don’t realize it until it’s stolen.  Identity thieves look for ways to find out information about you so they can piece together a picture of you from the parts they have stolen. Social security numbers, complete account numbers, access codes, user IDs, passwords– all these can help to steal your identity. In this section we’ll look at how you can protect yourself against common hacker techniques, so you can protect your identity.

Dumpster Diving

Identity thieves are looking for any opportunity to get your account statements or documents with your personal information. They’re especially interested in your social security number. The solution to dumpster diving is easy—shred your documents. Shred anything with private information on it before disposing of it. If you don’t have a shredder, many companies hold special events where they’ll accept your confidential materials and process them through their own document shredding companies for a small fee, charitable donation or even for free.

Stealing

Thieves try to steal wallets and purses; your mail, including bank and credit card statements and pre-approved credit offers; and new checks or tax information. A locked mail box will help since most crooks look for easy targets, but the best prevention is keeping documents secure.

Avoid carrying sensitive information such as your social security and account numbers in your wallet or purse (besides the cards you need to have) and take advantage of paperless statements as well as ebills, Online Banking and Bill Payer so that you don’t have paper statements and bills that can be stolen.

Mail forwarding

Thieves sometimes arrange to have your mail forwarded to somewhere else so they can collect information, cards, identity materials or even purchases. When the United States Postal Service begins mail forwarding, they’ll always send a confirmation letter to the old address. If you get one, and you didn’t request mail forwarding, contact your Postmaster immediately.

Phishing/Vishing

This is the new breed of fraud where the bad guys try to trick you into visiting a website (phishing) or calling a number (vishing) to enter your personal information. Sometimes a link in a phishing mail will send you to a fake site where they will try to capture your information by using a man-in-the-middle scam (see below). One way to avoid this is to type in the site addresses yourself, rather than using links. Your own bookmarks are also safer than links in email or texts. Don’t give your personally identifiable information to anybody online or by phone unless you are absolutely sure they are reputable.

Man-in-the-middle

In this scam, the crooks are PRETENDING to be a site you trust. When you enter your information, they’ll “forward” it to the real site (but capture it on the way) and then return any other requests from the real site until you have fully confirmed yourself. Then, they have everything they need to pretend to be you. The key to avoiding man-in-the-middle phishing is to be sure you know that you’re on the site you think you’re on.

Another man-in-the-middle scam is when you’re using a non-secured Wi-Fi connection and the criminals intercept your activities. In those situations, it’s doubly important that you make sure you’re on a secure and encrypted connection and that your personal machine is secure against having keytracking software installed on it over an insecure network. A strong firewall can make all the difference.

Skimming

Skimming occurs when crooks put devices OVER the entry port on ATMs or credit card readers to skim off your information as it’s processed. This doesn’t, by itself, give them more than your card number, but even more sophisticated skimmers will have a camera aimed at the keypad to capture your PIN.

It’s always best to take a good look at the ATM or card readers for anything that looks “added on” or unnatural to the machine prior to using it. Also, keep your other hand over the keypad when you enter your PIN. It’s important to note that First Tech’s ATM machines use advanced, dip card reader technology which make it much harder for fraudsters to attach skimming devices.