We have seen a steady rise in online shopping with consumers over the last decade. Many people choose to purchase their goods and services online versus waiting in lines and rummaging through department stores. With all of these types of online and wireless payments, protecting yourself from unwanted hackers is becoming more important than ever.
It isn’t just the small guy that is at risk. Recently, Global Payments was the latest company to fall victim to a large-scale hacking incident. The company reported that hackers stole debit and credit card account information for nearly 1.5 million consumers (source: lowcards.com ).
Unfortunately, this has become a fairly common news story. Last year, hackers stole personal information from a reported 24 million accounts from Sony Online Entertainment. In 2010, 130 million accounts were stolen from a payment processing company, Heartland Payment Systems. In 2007, 46 million accounts were stolen from TJ Maxx and Marshall’s. Even MasterCard had 40 million accounts compromised in 2005 (source: lowcards.com ). That’s just on the corporate side; you can only imagine what it looks like on the personal side.
In my opinion, the most important precaution is to check your credit and debit card accounts regularly for any unauthorized charges. Don’t just look for large purchases. People who find your credit card or steal your credit card information sometimes make small transactions since they are more likely to fly under the radar. It seems there is always a gas station or department store around the corner where they can make a few purchases before you find out. By checking your accounts every other day, you’ll likely catch major hacking on your card and be able to notify your credit card company before it becomes a problem.
Here are some tips on protecting yourself from unwanted hackers with your credit and bank information:
Don't Store Passwords and Change Them Frequently
Many people get lazy and have the computer remember their passwords. If you choose to do this and lose your computer, hackers will have easy access to get at your information. Don’t publicly post anything you may use as a password: your birth date, pet’s name, mother’s maiden name, or your school. Identity thieves can use the information you post to guess your password.
Don't Email Your Credit Card Number to Anyone
No financial institution or legitimate company will contact you by phone or email to ask for your Social Security number, credit card number or other personal information. There are many phishing items that I see from companies that look like they are your bank, credit card, or PayPal account. Be careful about opening these as hackers may be looking to steal your information.
Check Your Credit Reports at Least Once Per Year
You can get one free credit report every year from each of the three credit bureaus. Go to www.AnnualCreditReport.com or call (877) 322-8228 to order. By doing a thorough review of your credit, you can catch information that is inaccurate before it sticks with your credit record and negatively impacts your creditworthiness and financial health.
Secure Your Wireless Router
If you use a wireless router, password protect it and enable the encryption to scramble the data you send online. I’m amazed that some people still have an unsecured network, be it a residential or commercial router. This is important as someone could post up close by and easily hack into your network if it is without the protective encryption code that you should put in place when you set up your network.
Use Bank Account Protection Software
Ask your bank if it has free software to protect your bank account. Some banks and credit unions will offer free software to protect your bank account. You should ask questions about security and how your bank checks activity to see how they actually monitor the accounts.
There are so many exciting inventions that have evolved to make our lives easier every day. Shopping through the Internet, using programs like Square, and the soon-to-be mainstream electronic wallet are all advancements that should make our purchasing process simpler. However, you need to make sure you protect yourself from unwanted hackers or you could end up with a nightmare on Credit Card Street!