The COVID-19 pandemic pushed the need for banks and retailers to accelerate their digital transformations with digital payments being at the forefront of this as more consumers continue to shop online.
However, the rapid adoption of digital payment methods as part of this transformation process and in particular, alternative (digital) payment methods – PayPal, Stripe, Apple Pay, Google Pay, and buy now – pay later services such as Klarna – have resulted in a massive increase in the volume of fraud based cyber-attacks.
Digital transformation and how it affects you
Today, digital technology has transformed consumer habits. Mobile devices, apps, machine learning, automation and much more allow customers to get what they want almost exactly when they need it. However, the rapid acceleration of digital transformation by banks and retailers has meant that hackers and scammers have many more opportunities to commit cyber-crime, especially identity theft.
What is identity theft?
Identity theft can take many forms and happens when someone uses your sensitive data to pose as you or steal from you.
Types of identity theft
Once your details have been stolen there are a number of common ways that cyber-criminals can exploit this information:
- Credit ID theft
Credit identity theft happens when a criminal uses your personal information, such as birthdate and Social Security number, to apply for a new credit line, such as a credit card.
- Taxpayer ID theft
Fraudsters use a Social Security number to file a tax return and steal your tax refund or tax credit.
- Child ID theft
A child’s identity is stolen and used to apply for credit.
- ‘Avatar’ ID theft
Criminals use a patchwork of identity details to create a fictional consumer, using a Social Security number and combining it with a name and address. They then apply for loans and credit cards, often making some payments before cards are maxed out and the criminals disappear.
- Medical ID theft
This type of ID theft is particularly dangerous because it can result in medical histories being mixed, giving doctors and hospitals incorrect information as they are making health care decisions.
- Criminal ID theft
Law authorities are given someone else’s name and address during an arrest or investigation. This is often done with false identification, such as a fake driver’s license.
How identity theft can happen
Here are some of the top ways your personal information can be collected and compromised:
- Phishing or spoofing
Some fraudsters try to get you to disclose personal data, such as credit card numbers, Social Security numbers and banking information, by sending an official-looking email. Spoofing involves doing much the same thing with caller ID, so that the number appears to be that of a trusted company or government agency.
Opening an email attachment or visiting an infected website can install malicious software on your computer giving criminals access to passwords, account numbers and more.
- Data breaches
Hackers access databases holding sensitive information and use this information for fraudulent and criminal activity. Almost everyone has been affected by a data breach.
- Using public Wi-Fi
Hackers may be able to see what you are doing when you use free public Wi-Fi.
- Phone scams
You may be told you have won something or even that you are in danger of being arrested. The caller claims to need personal, banking or credit information to verify your identity or to know where to send you money.
- SIM card swap
This is when someone takes over your phone number. You may stop getting calls and texts, or you may get a notice that your phone has been activated.
- Skimming / watching
Skimming is getting credit card information, often from a small device, when a credit card is used at a bricks-and-mortar location such as a gas pump or ATM.
Fraudsters can also learn a password just by watching your fingers as you key it in, or the information on your credit card could be photographed with a smartphone while you shop online in a public place.
- Lost wallet
When your wallet is lost or stolen, someone else may gain access to all the information in it.
- Mailbox theft
An unsecured mailbox can result in mail theft and criminals gaining access to sensitive personal information.
How to prevent identity theft
Sorting out the aftermath of identity theft can be a long and complicated process, so it’s much better if you take steps to avoid the problem in the first place. Here are some of our top tips to protect your information:
- Use two-factor authentication
If someone does get their hands on your credit card account login details, setting up two-factor authentication can block them from accessing more information.
In addition to your login and password information, it adds a second step like requiring a passcode via text or email to ensure that you’re the one accessing the account. arrested. The caller claims to need personal, banking or credit information to verify your identity or to know where to send you money.
- Guard your personal information
The more information you hand over, the more potential scammers will know about you, and the easier it is to steal your identity. It’s a sad reality but major websites suffer from data breaches all the time.
When and wherever possible, your default position should be to give up as little personal data as possible.
- Check to see if your details have been shared online
Sometimes your log-in details can be made publicly available when a website is hacked. This means that someone could use your details in a scam. Check whether your accounts have been put at risk on ‘Have I Been Pwned.’
- Think before posting on social media
Be careful what you share on social media, especially publicly. Criminals are nothing if not persistent and will happily trawl through your posts looking for anything that can be used to steal your credentials and break into your accounts.
- Be wary of what you download
Be extra careful when downloading smartphone apps, especially with less familiar applications. You will usually be told what information a new app wants to access.
Keep an eye on what you install on your PC too. Don’t click on or download anything you don’t trust and make sure your antivirus software is up to date to give you more protection.
- Use a VPN
Using a VPN gives you an extra layer of security. Since your IP address changes, it can make life more difficult for those who use your IP address to figure out which online accounts are used by the same person.
- Password managers
A password manager can help you generate long, hacker-proof, unique passwords for each of the services you use online and entering them into sites you visit automatically for you.
- Keep your devices up to date
It’s important to keep your smartphones, tablets, laptops, and desktop PCs up to date to prevent known vulnerabilities from being exploited. Be sure to keep the following important types of software regularly updated:
- Operating System (OS)
- Web browser and extensions
- Third-party apps
Many devices and apps can install updates automatically, but sometimes they’ll need a bit of help from the device user, so you’ll need to keep an eye on updates in case they stop working.
- Use antivirus
You need to protect your devices against malware with regular updates to your antivirus program. Better yet, opting for a full-blown security suite, which gives you protection while browsing, shopping, and banking online, as well as antivirus software that combats spam, spear-phishing emails, and phishing attacks from websites (the latter two try and steal your personal info by mimicking a message or site that looks genuine), will further bolster your level of protection.
Also, make sure your anti-malware tools are always up to date. Otherwise, they can let in any new threats. And remember to keep your contact information up to date on issuers’ apps and websites so that you may be reached about possible fraudulent activities.
- Backup your data
Remember to back up your most valued data. Items erased from your hard drive can’t be restored, especially if a hacker wipes your device for you. Either purchase a physical external hard drive or use a cloud backup service.
- Check statements regularly
Go online regularly and look at statements for your credit card, debit card, and checking accounts. Look for any fraudulent charges, even originating from large, trusted payment sites like PayPal.
If you see something wrong, pick up the phone to address the matter quickly. In the case of credit cards, pay the bill only when you know all your charges are accurate. Typically, you’ll have 30 days to notify the bank or card issuer of problems, however; after that, you might be liable for the charges anyway.
- Avoid public Wi-Fi
Public Wi-Fi networks are rarely configured with robust privacy protections, and that makes them popular places for cybercriminals to launch their attacks. Public Wi-Fi has fewer security features than a private network.
- Shred documents & secure your mailbox
Any physical documents containing your personal and financial information are just as good to an identity thief as virtual data.
Take the time to shred your documents before disposal to help protect identity. Also, remember to take to take note of where you store the papers you don’t plan to get rid of. Lastly, ensure that your mailbox is secure so thieves can’t steal your physical mail.
What is being done by banks and retailers to combat increased risks?
One of the biggest challenges in combating cybercrime is that it is constantly evolving, making it difficult for traditional security measures to keep up. This is where artificial intelligence and machine learning is being adopted (especially by financial institutions) to process large volumes of data and find sophisticated fraud traits that a human simply cannot detect. The result? Better cybercrime protection for consumers.
Today’s reality is that data breaches happen (and frequently) which means your information and identity may already be exposed. In this new reality, it’s important that you take steps to prevent criminals stealing and using your identity.
Two products that can help you stay protected and secure are NetSafety Device protection and SafeCentral for Aol.
Our NetSafety Device App gives you protection, visibility, and control across all your devices, from any location and any type of connection. Keep your data and privacy guarded 24/7 from viruses, ransomware and more, using technology that will guarantee complete peace of mind.
While the SafeCentral for Aol app protects you against cybercrime and keeps your online banking and shopping transactions safe from thieves who try to steal your identity or drain your bank account. Stay protected from phishing, fraud, ransomware and more while using any website that requires personal and financial information regardless of the web browser being used.