I started writing this post a few days ago with the title “Have You Been Affected by Identity Theft?” It was saved in my Drafts. When I got home today and settled in, I changed into my jammies and curled up on the couch and decided to log into my PayPal account. And I was instantly confused. My balance was way lower than it was earlier today. I had gone shopping today and spent around $70, but there was about $350 or so missing. After getting over my confusion of just thinking that I could not subtract (HA!) I noticed 2 transactions that I did not recognize. One was for well over $250 and they other for about $76. They both had different company names, but both were based in the UK in the same town. I called right away and they were awesome and fast. I was able to get the charges reversed.
I have now had 4 different incidents occur. And let me tell you, cleaning up after that mess is no fun at all. Back when I had an American Express card I got a call that someone overseas was attempting to use my card for purchases. They thought that it looked suspicious since I was clearly in Chicago and the charges were in Asia. On another occasion my checking account was hacked and a couple of charges went through. I was able to prove that I did not do it and I got it reversed.
Identity theft affects approximately 10 million people every year. That is an estimated 19 people every minute! Holy cow!!! Don't the hackers have anything better to do??
How does it happen? There are several ways.
Hacked Bank Account: This is only one way that hackers can get into your finances. Hackers can get their hands on bank account info and drain consumer accounts. Banks are insured against this type of thing, but it is still a pain to deal with.
Hacked Debit/Credit Card: This is what happened to me today. I don't know exactly what method was used. But, one way that hackers get debit or credit card numbers is to run a type of number guessing program over and over again until it hits a real credit card number. They then use this number to make purchases or transfer finances. This also happened to my BF not too long ago.
Hacked Password: With the mass of login accounts on the internet, there are many, many accounts out there that can potentially get hacked because of weak user passwords. See my previous post, on creating strong passwords. And once you have your strong passwords created, use a program like ChicaPassword Manager to keep track. If hackers crack your password and you have a credit card or debit card tied into any of these accounts they can access that info.
Hacked Merchant Accounts: Amazon.com, Buy.com, Walmart.com and other shopping sites are at risk for being hacked. It has happened to some sites before. Hackers gain access to customer files and use the information.
Rigged Transaction Terminals: I saw this one on the news one day. You go to a gas station, ATM machine, or other electronic terminal and you use your credit or debit card assuming that it is secure. But, in some cases, hackers may have rigged that terminal with a special attachment that will capture customer card numbers once they are swiped. Scary isn't it?
Be sure to use good judgement, strong password, and constant monitoring to protect yourself from hacking and identity theft. Of course, we can't prevent everything because some hackers are just too good. But every little effort helps.
Disclosure: This post is written as part of my involvement in the ChicaLogic Ambassador program.