By Coy Millsap
MCP Staff Reporter
Online shopping and social media are just a couple of ways that people could put themselves in harm’s way. By putting personal information on the Internet, people take the risk of having their identity stolen.
There are many ways a hacker can obtain one’s identity. There are simple techniques. The Internet is not the only way that hackers can get access to personal information. They can use ATM machines, security cameras and other means. There are still traditional ways, which include stealing wallets and addressed mail.
Most people have identification cards, credit cards and sometimes Social Security cards, but today things are changing. More people are purchasing items online and do not use proper procedures when using credit cards on the Internet. “If it’s on the Internet, it can be hacked,” Midland College Vice President of Technology and Facilities Dennis Sever said.
Often, hackers will use a false website. The website will look almost identical to a legit site. For example the IRS website is often mimicked. All federal agencies will not ask for personal information as in Social Security numbers, and bank account numbers, but fake websites will.
If you get a phone call from a person claiming to be from the sheriff’s office or other official offices, seeking personal information, this is also false. You should hang up immediately and inform the authorities. “If somebody asks you a question and you do not know who they are, do not answer. It is that simple,” Sever said. “Another way that people can get information is an email scam. Emails often times claim that the person receiving the email has won a prize and ask for bank account information. These types of scams should also be reported to the authorities. “Watch how you talk to. Don’t open unknown emails. Don’t give secure information. Know who you’re talking to, and be careful.”
The misinformed and the elderly often times fall victim to email scams. Education and awareness is the best weapon to use when protecting one’s identity at home and abroad.
Be aware of malicious malware, unknown email addresses and false websites. Identity theft is one of the largest and fastest-growing crimes in the world.
Social media websites can be dangerous. “People share information on Facebook, as in ‘we’re going out of town or at a baseball game,’” Sever said. “Certain individuals know that the person is out of town or the house is empty.
One way can be more careful with their identity is by creating more complicated passwords. “People make passwords too easy,” Sever said. “You have 46 different characters you can use to secure your password. Use a 15 character password instead of a four character password.” should also be creative when making a password. “Do not put your first name, your kid’s name, or your pet’s name and so on and so forth.”
“As technology gets better, the threat grows and the problem gets worse,” Sever said.