The Washington Post recently covered the story of a woman whose single cocktail at 30,000 feet on a Southwest flight cost her $1,300 in fraudulent charges.
And while it seems fraud can happen anywhere at any time, it’s important to know the odd nooks and crannies where it can be hiding out. Whether on a plane or in your home, a potential threat can be lurking and strike your finances at any time.
Fraud and Technology
The tools that have been marveled as this century’s most magnificent successes are also the very instruments that can turn against consumers. From social media to smartphones, fraudsters have found a way to infiltrate virtually every new age platform used on a daily basis.
According to TechCrunch, there are 700,000 apps available for download on the iOS store with customers using more than 100 apps on average.
While many of these programs help simplify, improve and entertain our lives, it also opens the door to allowing predators into your devices. Skilled hackers with the gumption to steal ID’s and credit card numbers have been known to gain access through the creation of apps.
Tami Nealy, Senior Director of Corporate Communications for LifeLock, suggests one way to help protect yourself from these hackers.
Consumers can also gain some perspective by observing whether or not the app has ratings and reviews that offer some proof of legitimacy.
There are few people who have managed to go untouched by the social media craze and for those carelessly sharing with the world, a major fraud trap is waiting.
The brains behind MyPermissions, an app to help secure mobile devices, found that 95 percent of Facebook profiles have at least one application on it. In many circumstances, these social additions aren’t reviewed and can be used for “malicious and criminal purposes.”
Aside from the problems applications can cause for users, general usage is often extremely dangerous. Javelin Strategy found that:
68 percent of people with public social media profiles revealed the month, day and year of their birthday.
63 percent shared their high school name
18 percent shared their phone number
12 percent shared their pet’s name
While these details may seem innocent enough, consider the security questions that banks, creditors and lenders ask to double up on security. Anyone on social media should be cautious with the information shared and attempt to protect sensitive details with privacy settings.
For the person on the go, a cloud service provides a convenient way to store information across multiple devices. Users can gain access to their documents and data, regardless of location.
But with convenience, comes cost. Your ability to easily access information is the opportunity for others to also access that information.
Pooya Kazerouni believes this is one of the biggest threats to keeping identities safe.
“The beauty of cloud systems is having the data on your mobile devices no matter where you are. But, those mobile devices are the weakest links in the whole system,” says Kazerouni. “Unfortunately, due to our busy lifestyle, we constantly lose or misplace our phones and valuables.”
The Enemy in Your Home
Unfortunately, it isn’t always a faceless hacker that uses consumers’ information fraudulently. Roommates, relatives and guardians have been known to exploit trusting loved ones to gain access to credit cards, Social Security numbers and cash.
Mary Flynn, a public interest litigation attorney, has seen identity theft in some of the most disheartening scenarios.
“One of the saddest places of identity theft I’ve personally seen involved licensed or relative foster parents using a foster child’s identity to incur utility charges and credit card debt. The theft was often done when the child was 8 or 9 years old, and wasn’t discovered until the child was around 18 and had a credit report run by prospective landlords or colleges, “recalls Flynn.
The young, with their unblemished and unchecked credit, are frequently targets of fraud. According to findings by All Clear ID, more than 10 percent of surveyed children had someone else using their Social Security number. But they aren’t the only pinpointed victims of identity theft.
Flynn also acknowledges that older consumers who allow a younger relative or stranger to move in are highly vulnerable to fraud.
Responsible caregivers should take initiative to protect children and the elderly by running credit reports, keeping an eye on open credit activity and reducing information exposure to potential threats.
How to Stay Protected
Regardless of what technology you use or who is exposed to your information, the simplest acts like using Wi-fi or dropping your wallet can result in a massive financial struggle.
Anthony Kirlew of Fiscally Sound suggests three steps consumers can take to better protect themselves from fraud:
Shred all documents with identifying information, including junk mail
Carry a credit card with you rather than a debit card, a debit card gives identity thieves potential access to all of the cash in your bank
“Sometimes we can’t protect against an act of crime, but we can protect against the effects of the crime. If someone gains access to a credit card account, your card might not work, but if they gain access to your bank fund and liquidate that, it could spiral into additional financial mishaps,” says Kirlew.
Get professional identity theft protection
Kirlew goes on to recommend that any ID protection service should be thoroughly researched to ensure it will provide the coverage necessary.
Identity theft may not be 100 percent avoidable at all times, but for those looking to secure their finances to the best of their ability, it is important to know where and when fraud can strike. Protect your money and credit by putting the safeguards in place that can help secure your information.