Tag: online security

How to Protect Yourself Against Credit Card Fraud

Credit cards chained up with padlockCredit card fraud can cost you a lot of time and money. I know this is a big surprise, right? But how much can it actually cost you? A LOT. In fact, it is estimated that credit card fraud costs consumers and businesses $190 billion every year. Although these tips are basic and straightforward, here are a few necessary and essential steps to protect yourself against the headaches of stolen credit card information and fraud.

Physical Security

Basic, right? This is the easiest way to have your credit card information stolen and for someone to then use it to make fraudulent purchases: physical theft of your card. Make sure you keep track of your cards and secure them properly. All too often we get replacement cards in the mail, toss them in a drawer, glove box, or other unsecured location, and then forget about them. Keeping track of all of your cards can be challenging these days, but doing so could not be any more important in an increasingly cash-less society. So keep any eye on every single card you own, even the ones you don’t use. Shred the ones you have no use for, and secure the ones you use every once in awhile, and keep a watchful eye on the ones you use regularly.

Only Use Your Card On Trustworthy Sites

HTTPSNo doubt you’re rolling your eyes at this recommendation. But consider this: it is estimated that consumers lose approximately $29 million every quarter on fraudulent websites. $29 million! So if you’re buying something online (aren’t we all?), make sure you’re buying from a site you trust. There are a few special security measures of note. First and foremost, make sure the site you’re buying from is the site you think it is; you don’t want to enter all of your personal data on a convincing mock-up. Be sure to double-check the URL and only access the site through a clean link. Never enter your data on a site you reached via a link from an unfamiliar or redirected source.

And make sure you watch to make sure you’re connected via HTTPS when transferring data, to avoid having the information stolen as it passes to the site. You can confirm this by looking up by the address bar on your browser; it should show a lock symbol, say Secure, or simply note ‘HTTPS’ if you’re connected safely.

Dispose of Documents Carefully

Anything with your credit card number on it–or any personal identifying information for that matter–needs to be thoroughly destroyed. That means shredding, burning, or something equally destructive. You don’t want to have your credit card information found by someone digging through your trash—it’s a more popular approach to identity theft than you might realize. So suck it up and go buy a decent shredder for $25. Or dig one out of a dumpster. Unless you’re living on another planet, there’s no reason not to use a shredder every single day in order to keep your financial information safe. As the old saying goes, “You should ‘Enron’ as much stuff as possible to stay safe these days.” Shred it, burn it, or destroy it. Whatever it takes.

Upgrade to a Chip Card

Credit Card With Gold ChipCredit cards with microchips are inherently safer to use than those without; these have been in use in Europe for over a decade. If you haven’t already upgraded to a chip card, it’s time to look into your options; many banks and credit card companies have already made the leap. Some complain that chips take longer to process while checking out at stores in the U.S., but studies show that transactions take only 1 second longer, or less. Either way, the added security that chips offer far outweigh having to wait in line a few moments longer at Target. If your bank still hasn’t yet made the switch to the chip, call your old-school savings and loan and tell them to get on it.

Stay Alert

Credit card skimmer

Credit card skimmer

There are a few credit card fraud schemes that can slip right past you if you’re not looking for them, but they will become pretty obvious as long as you stay alert to anything usual. This includes watching for card skimmers, special reading devices installed on gas pumps and ATM’s that steal your data. There has been a significant rise in the use of card skimmers in the U.S. over the last few years, and this trend will likely continue. Every time you stop at the gas station to fill your tank or at the ATM to grab some cash, take a few moments to double check the card swiping device.  You’ll also want to watch for other simple scams, such as getting you to sign a credit card receipt without a verified amount on it.

Report Lost Cards and Suspicious Activity Immediately

Report LostSad but true, but sometimes you can’t completely avoid exposure to fraud. If you can’t find your credit card, if you see a purchase you don’t remember, or if anything suspicious occurs with your card, follow it up as soon as possible. Yes, calling credit card companies is arguably the worst task on earth, but lost or missing cards should be reported to the issuer immediately, without hesitation. For suspicious charges, be sure to investigate and contest any charges if necessary, and then (possibly) request a new card. The sooner you contact your credit card company (and hold on the line for an hour), the sooner you will have suspicious and fraudulent charges resolved.

Adam Quirk, MBA & MCJ

Adam Quirk, MBA & MCJ

Adam Quirk, MCJ & MBA, has extensive experience in the criminal justice field, as well as advanced degrees in Criminal Justice (MCJ) and Business Administration (MBA).

How To Protect Yourself From Social Engineering

Adam QuirkThere is no end to the methods that scammers have come up with to attain information vital to the success of their schemes. Whether they are seeking to perpetrate fraud, hacking or espionage, the most tried and true method is also one of the oldest: social engineering. It is one of the most successful because it is one of the least obvious methods, and can often require much more effort than would be reasonable for the small kernels of information that it can gather. However, those small nuggets of information can be as precious as gold to someone with the worst of intentions. Understanding and preventing social engineering is essential to protecting yourself and your business from everything from financial scams to identity theft.

So what is social engineering?

Adam QuirkSocial engineering is basically an attempt to attain personal or confidential information through manipulation and subterfuge. This can be online or face to face, in conversation or through electronic collection of data. It is a concerted effort to exploit trust in order to obtain information ranging from what you might be working on, to passwords that will allow access to data or processes. This is usually accomplished by individuals misrepresenting themselves as someone who would have a legitimate need for this information.

How to prevent social engineering

While there may be no way of completely eliminating the threat of social engineering, it can be mitigated by proper awareness and action. Here are some common sense steps that will take the bite out of social engineering attempts.

1. Treat Every Email As If It Were Potentially Compromised

401044-securityEmails, even those from trusted friends and co-workers, can be accessed and manipulated by any number of people. Even legitimate-looking emails from holders of your personal information such as your financial institution should not be trusted enough for you to click on the links to access your account. If at all possible, securely access the site on your web browser rather than clicking suspect links.

2. Never Reveal Personal Information Over The Phone

A common scam is to receive a call off someone claiming to be a financial or government entity. They may ask you to verify your identity with your social security number, date of birth, password or other information. If you cannot verify the number that is calling you as belonging to that entity, never give the information. It is safer to hang up and contact the organization directly at a known secure phone number to see if there is business that requires that verification.

3. Watch What You Say And To Whom You Say It

When someone you have just met is interested in your work or personal life, be very sparse with details and give them only what they need to know. Something as simple as what you are working on or when your birthday is could give them the information they need to advance their plan just one step closer.

While these may seem at first to be extreme steps to take, scammers are relying on your trusting nature to take social engineering attempts at face value.

Adam Quirk is a criminal justice professional with over 15 years of experience in the field. Adam also owns Stealth Advise, Wisconsin’s premier private investigations firm. In his free time, Adam enjoys blogging and traveling internationally.

Kardashians at Gunpoint: Social Media Sharing and Personal Safety

Love her or hate her, Kim Kardashian’s recent robbery at gunpoint — bound, gagged, and locked in her hotel suite’s bathroom while gun-wielding thieves stole over 10 million dollars’ worth of Kim picjewelry, technology, and personal belongings — has given rise to an important discussion about personal safety in the age of social media. In the past, our updates on a celebrity’s whereabouts were confined to paparazzi photos which generally wouldn’t be posted until days after an event. These days, however, social media applications like Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat make it possible to share a much greater volume of personal information, and celebrities like the Kardashians keep the public continuously up-to-date by posting about their lives on a near-hourly basis.

It isn’t just celebrities sharing this wealth of information, however. Social media is an integral part of everyday life for the general public too. Snapchat alone boasts an average of 400 million

Snap Chatphotographs and videos shared every day. Each of these posts automatically includes the user’s location, and it has been suggested that Kim Kardashian’s numerous snaps during her stay in Paris may have made it possible for the thieves to track her down without ever being spotted.

This issue had been discussed, in fact, on a recent episode of Keeping Up With The Kardashians, which tackled the issue of social media location sharing. Kim’s half-sister, Kylie Jenner, had fallen victim to a stalker, and the family discussed how her Instagram sharing (always including her location) may have made her particularly vulnerable. This issue received high-profile media attention during the so-called Bling Ring robberies of 2008, when a group of LA teenagers tracked celebrities’ whereabouts through online posts and ransacked their houses when the celebs were away. At the time, these violations seemed worlds away from the general public. What kind of average Joe could be tracked through photos of them going to restaurants and on weekend trips?

These days, however, many people share information about themselves online. Check through your own recent social media posts; you’ll probably find that a surprising number give away your Social Mediawhereabouts either directly (the app includes your location by default) or indirectly (you or your friends mention where you are). Sometimes you don’t even have complete control over the situation, as friends or family post about you without your knowledge.

It used to be enough to leave the radio on to fool robbers when you went on vacation, but now a social media post (that you didn’t even send) could give away the information that your home is empty, or that you’re out at a bar with your expensive phone. You could easily find yourself in Kim Kardashian’s position. Maybe you don’t have jewelry worth millions of dollars with you at any given moment, but you probably have something you’d be devastated to lose, and an armed robbery is a terrifying prospect for anyone.

This form of crime isn’t restricted to the super-famous, super-rich, or super-active on social media. Even the average person can be tracked through social media posting, and innovative criminals are using these posts to find new targets. Social media applications are bringing the world closer together and creating new means of communication, but you shouldn’t dive headfirst into over-sharing without considering the risks.

Make sure to keep your profile on private (see tip #9) so that only people you’ve connected with can see your posts, and accept only people that you know and trust. Alternatively, if you are adamant about Safetykeeping your location information public, then save media to your phone while it’s on Airplane Mode and post it later, so that your location can’t be tracked continuously; ask your friends to do the same.

Social media sharing can feel like a necessity, but there are ways to keep yourself safe once you’re aware of the risks. Keep your location and public access to a limit and stay safe. This is one thing that you certainly don’t want to have in common with the Kardashians.

Adam Quirk is a criminal justice professional with over 15 years’ investigative experience.