Many of my readers and current clients will ask me time and time again, “How could we have gotten this virus or this hack? I have anti-virus, secured wifi, and I watch which sites I give my info to.”
It’s really boils down to this, and this is my personal quote. These hacks are coming out all day, every day. Many of the hackers used to be like graffiti artists who enjoyed the high of creating confusion or mischief. Think WarGames; the star of the movie’s original intent was to play a game. That was then, but now hacks are a very profitable and hurtful business.
Unfortunately, hacks have expanded into organized crime in underdeveloped countries and particularly in Europe, Asia and the Middle East. There are no borders on these crimes.
While all of us enjoy our lives, try to make a living and taking care of our families, the hackers are using the hacked info for profit, espionage and, at times, cyber-terrorism.
During one of my seminars on internet safety, one of my client’s sons-in-law said, “You are scaring the guests. My response is “Okay, then maybe it’s best you just skip this week’s UnGarbled-Tech. Trust this writer. I read night and day and some of the info even keeps me up at night.” As I feel an obligation and it’s my honor to write this tech column, I often encounter something new in the “hack” community. I feel the best way to protect people is to write about these concerns so that people are aware and can take the appropriate precautions.
It’s just not possible to not use credit cards today online, even if it’s a great way to protect your credit. Let’s not forget about the amazing miles one gets; I know this as I would have never gotten to Israel last month without the miles. Many companies have no other method of purchase. With all the risks of credit cards, credit card companies take significant steps to protect their consumers.
If one has a choice of debit or credit, pick credit! This protects the consumer as the money has been removed from your credit line, but it’s not money actually removed from your bank account, until you pay your bill.
When purchasing items with the credit card, it’s become a new style for servers to keep the card until the balance is paid. I am not sure this is a good idea. That’s too much time with your card.
Chip cards, though annoying, are a must-have. The numbers on a credit card alone are just too risky. The chips make your card unique to you. Soon all cards will have chips; Europe has already completely transferred to chips.
I recently heard of a new scam that happened. I was in awe of this: People expect that someone will steal a credit card or numbers to make purchases, though the credit cards companies have algorithms and warnings on their end to try to prevent this. When picking an email address on your credit card, make sure this email is one that you check often and will keep for a long time. Hence, I would not use a company email or an ISP email like Verizon or Cablevision. Don’t use an email that you don’t answer. The scam is the hackers will try to attempt to hack your email. Then by looking through your emails from Amazon or some other merchant receipt, they can see which card you have (not the number; that is hidden). The hackers then try to log in and change your email address on file. There are too many methods these hackers use to try to get your online access username and password to list in one weekly column.
Many companies will recover lost passwords with email or cell numbers. Once the hackers have access to your account they change the email on file at the credit card to the hacker’s email. One would think they just want to charge expensive items that would be shipped. Not the case: By the time a larger merchant is about to send hacked illegal purchases, the hacker will cancel the shipment and route a refund to a new credit card.
Airplane miles have become so popular. We call them points, not miles, kind of like a currency, per se. Many incredibly good companies even purchase the miles and then these miles can be converted to cash. That is fine. What the hackers try to do is have the credit card companies convert the miles to gift cards. The gift cards once used are not refundable as far as I know.
How to protect oneself?
If you are selling your miles, make sure to use reputable companies like Get Peyd; I have used them and the staff is incredible.
Rule of thumb with any sort of threat. It’s best to change all online passwords to any account, often. Especially banking sites and Amazon.
There is no magic fairy dust I can give any client that truly protects everyone against these hackers. Some of these attacks are done on the credit card side.
It’s best to use common sense if something doesn’t look right or if you feel your identity has been stolen. It costs zero to call your bank or credit card and double check.
For businesses of any size, not having a proper firewall like Dell Sonic or Fortinet, which have very low prices, may be rolling the dice. Reach out to any of the local IT professionals; all of them can manage and install a firewall.
Shneur is the CEO and Founder of the Garb IT Consulting Group in Teaneck, NJ. GCG manages educational, medical and dental practices. Shneur also leads seminars on internet safety in the NY/ NJ areas. For questions or comments email [email protected]
By Shneur Garb