Cyber Thieves Are Targeting You – Here’s How To Stop Them

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Are you the target of a hacker? Understand the threat and learn how to protect your sensitive information so you stay off a hacker’s radar.

The Problem: You do everything to protect yourself from the growing threat of identity theft, but despite your best efforts, the data you transmit from your home computer to online retailers and banking sites is still at risk of being exploited by a particular type of identity thief – the hacker.

Though some companies may employ hackers as means of improving their security infrastructure, the term has become synonymous with any individual who bypasses a computer system’s security measures with the intent of stealing information and using it for malicious purposes. So, hackers are a growing threat that everyone must recognize — better yet, stop.

Consider this – in 2014, 12.7 million Americans were victimized by identity theft, resulting in financial losses totaling $16 billion, according to Javelin Research.

The Solution: Understand the threat, learn the necessary precautions, recognize if you are the target of a hacker, and reverse the effects of any identity theft that has taken place.

Action Step I: How am I vulnerable? While most hackers won’t attack you directly, your personal information is at risk nonetheless. I.D. thieves focus their efforts on breaking into the servers of large organizations, such as banks, credit card companies, and online retailers, so if you have ever checked an account balance, made an electronic payment, or placed an order online, your personal information is, and will be, susceptible to hacking.

Action Step II: Protect yourself: Stopping a hacker from breaching your favorite store’s customer information database is an uphill climb, but you can reduce the odds of a personal data breach by shopping only at secure online retail sites. Most Internet retailers go to great lengths to secure data (look for ones that add an “S” – for secure – at the end of their HTTP web address). Consequently, those sites are most adept at keeping your data away from identity thieves. Another tip before you buy. Don’t send any of your sensitive account data over computers, smart phones or tablets at public places with shared WiFi access – fraudsters often load viruses onto these computers and can peel personal data away in the wink of an eye.

Action Step III: Have I been hacked? Like most personal data breaches, the first sign you’ve been victimized comes from suspicious phone calls, letters, texts, or e-mails that request key personal data, like your Social Security Number, credit card numbers, or bank checking account number. If you start getting these requests, don’t ignore them – get on the phone right away to the proper authorities, including your bank, credit card company, the U.S. Social Security Administration, and your local police department. Be vigilant about keeping your electronic devices free of viruses, spyware, and other fraud triggers, which hackers will often employ to corrupt files and lift information. Buy fraud security packages (they go for as little as $10 a month for secure packages) and make sure you keep your anti-virus software up-to-date – hackers develop new viruses everyday, and being prepared for the next threat is often the best defense.

The Takeaway: The best defense against personal data breaches is a good offense. Be vigilant, be proactive, and be careful about who you share data with on line, and where you share that data if you do go online. Take those action steps, and reduce your odds of becoming an identity theft victim – before it’s too late.

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