Am I the only one who thought COVID-19 would bring out the best in cyber criminals and thieves—that the pandemic would remind them that life is short and they would see the error of their ways?
It didn’t happen. Instead of binging on Netflix and Hulu like the rest of us during quarentine, they actually honed their skills to fleece us of more of our money while we were catching up on the Great British Baking Show and The Tiger King.
A few days ago I got an email from a major book retailer that they had a security breech and the first line read like a death notice; “It is with the greatest regret we inform you…”. They went on to ensure me (us) that just my personal information may have been compromised…but my financial data was double-triple-fourple encrypted and very safe. Just possibly my name, email, billing and shipping address and telephone number—the stuff ID thieves need to create a new identity and potentially have a financial impact that would ripple for years—was exposed.
To make matters worse, only hours earlier, I was trying to make an online purchase but my card was rejected because I had inverted the numbers of my security code. Thank goodness, because I found out the website was sketchy and when I called my bank, the nice lady on the other end was very sympathetic. This is just my opinion but she was probably thinking, “Bless your heart” when she heard my tale of woe.
How did I get duped into giving my card information to a less than honest website? They advertised exactly what I wanted for a lot less than everyone else; they had four celebrity endorsements; and as soon as I clicked onto the website there was blinking red, green and yellow alert! It was a countdown clock and I had just four minutes to get the product for FREE and all I had to pay was shipping! SCORE! I was typing like the wind, which is how I inverted my security code, which is why I didn’t think to investigate the company until after I typed in everything.
The online reviews assured me that I would NOT have gotten what I ordered, and I had willingly given my information to strangers. I teach financial literacy but I had been duped. The irony that I start each class with the warning—that everybody wants our money—was not lost on me. I’m hoping that my transparency will help you understand that a breach of your PII (personally identifiable information) is a huge deal. As I heard a financial expert say, “PII is the new currency and an easy way to rob people without a gun.”
Even though the book retailer tried to assure me that someone else having my PII was no big deal, I know it’s a big deal and we can’t afford to be lulled into complacency by a soothing email.
What are the most common ways cyber criminals use your information?
How can you prevent becoming a victim to those cyber criminals who refuse to take a break and binge watch with the rest of us?
These are just a few ways you can protect yourself. Everybody wants your money but YOU can outsmart them and keep it safe.
Consumer Education Services, Inc. (CESI) is a non-profit committed to empowering and inspiring consumers nationwide to make wise financial decisions and live debt-free. Speak with a certified counselor for a free debt analysis today.
Consumer Education Services, Inc. empowers people to overcome their financial challenges and lead financially-healthy lives.
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