There’s no doubt that new technology has made our lives a lot easier in many ways. But it has also made theft a much simpler proposition, as cash becomes a distant memory, and computers control access to our homes, our cars and our money. Using cutting-edge information technology (IT), thieves are able to work in surprisingly up-to-date ways.
20. ATM skimmers
Sometimes a crook will cover an ATM’s face with a special device that looks like it’s just part of the ATM (which stands for Automated Teller Machine). It’s really hard to detect that anything is different from normal. The skimmer simply records the cardholder’s data, while a hidden camera photographs their Personal Identification Number (PIN).
This relatively simple method of stealing money can be very effective, with losses to this method estimated at more than $1 billion in a single year, according to the ATM Industry Association. But there is good news: companies have responded, and they’re coming up with new card readers that will be tougher to infiltrate. Plus, if you have a chip-equipped card, then your data’s already safer.
19. Digital pickpockets
In 2016 Russian media reported a new form of pickpocketing. Apparently, a man used a reader to thieve from bystanders using contactless payments. Experts confirm that in theory this is plausible if the thief uses a machine that deploys GPRS technology. However, usually banks demand that those who want to have this type of card-reading machine open a business account, which prevents the anonymity that a such a thief would require to get away with the crime.
If the hacker does get a hold of your card information, your bank or credit provider should notice the strange charge on your account. In most cases, such noteworthy spending will result in a phone call or alert to confirm that it was, indeed, you who made the contactless charges. If not, you can cancel the payments and order a new, uncompromised card.
18. Stealing cars by radio
When a Mercedes car vanished from outside a home in the British town of Grays, Essex, it seemed that a new crime had been born. Newspaper The Sunday Times reported in April 2017 how a pair of men had apparently used a radio transmitter for the theft. The report indicated the device had enabled them to unlock the door of the car.
With the easy-to-acquire device, the men were able to boost the signal from the fob key inside the house, thus opening the previously locked doors. At the time Mercedes claimed that it didn’t know of a problem with car locking. However, experts in Germany have shown that it’s possible to break in with radio signals.
17. Not-so-smart locks
Smart technology for the home is all the rage, and many of us now use hubs to control just about everything. However, experts are warning about the dangers of smart locks. In one system (before its flaw was fixed), would-be home invaders needed only to extract a code to crack the seemingly secure lock.
Scarily, obtaining the secret digits to open the lock didn’t require obscure resources, either. Would-be home invaders needed only to extract a code from the lock over the internet, according to security website TechCrunch in July 2019. Once they’d stolen the code – itself called a private key – they could break in with no password needed.
16. Weak web security
When you log online and search for a particular site, take a look at the space to the left of the web address. If you don’t see a lock, you could be in big trouble: without the padlock symbol of security next to your chosen website, you could be heading to an insecure spot on the internet.
You should never make any type of transaction on a site that isn’t secure, as symbolized by the lock. If you do, your data could be visible or otherwise accessible to third parties who will gather and steal your information. They’ll have just enough to open new credit cards or loans in your name, so beware.
15. Info-stealing malware
Malware stands for “malicious software,” which explains why you might not want such programs infiltrating your computer. Anything from a worm to a virus to a trojan falls under the malware umbrella. And each one has the potential to compromise your hard drive without your knowledge or consent.
Thieves can use malware to their advantage – and your great disadvantage. Namely, particular types of viruses or worms can read the information you share and store on your computer. Then, someone can see it and transcribe it later, thus making it easy to steal your money or even your identity.
14. Vehicular identity theft
It’s not just your personal data that’s up for grabs; thieves can snatch your valuables, too. When they steal cars, though, they have to be extra-careful. Every vehicle comes with a Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), which delineates the car’s model and manufacturer, among other details. This code acts as a fingerprint of sorts, differentiating your ride from all of its sister vehicles.
Even with a VIN, your car could still be stolen by thieves. What they do is copy another vehicle’s VIN, whether they find it in a parking lot or junkyard. They produce plates and tags with the lifted information. Then, they find a lookalike vehicle to steal and pop on its new identifiers. With that, the taken car – maybe yours – becomes legitimate for the dishonest driver behind the wheel.
13. Forwarding mail to a thief
The internet has made our lives so much more convenient. In one of many examples, you can now go online and change your forwarding address with the U.S. Postal Service. That way, if you move, whether it’s a permanent or temporary change, you can have all of your mail delivered to you.
Unfortunately, thieves have taken advantage of this convenience in order to lift information from unwitting victims. They log on and fill in details so that a person’s mail arrives at a new address. Then, they gather the envelopes and filter through to find any valuable information they can use. The only way to prevent such a situation is to keep an eye on your mailbox. If the letters stop coming, you might want to check your forwarding address.
12. Faux credit reports
A credit report stands as a great resource for cardholders everywhere. These pages show how you’ve spent your credit, as well as how responsibly you pay back what you’ve used. Any discrepancy will raise alarm bells, so, when the bank calls with questions, you’re likely to provide all of the information they need to settle a credit-related issue.
But not so fast! Dishonest folk will use your credit-related responsibility to your great advantage. Namely, a thief might call, posing as a staffer at your bank. They’ll ask you to confirm your identity and account information under the guise of helping with your credit report. However, they’ll save the stats and use them for themselves.
11. Bluetooth scan-and-steal
A Bluetooth connection allows you to link your smart devices to each other, no wires required. However, thieves know how to use this tech to help them in their dishonest efforts. It all starts when you leave a Bluetooth-enabled device in your car or home; if it’s still on, then it could be emitting a traceable signal.
With that, all thieves have to do is use their own scanner to find Bluetooth-enabled devices in the vicinity. They can pinpoint electronics left behind in cars or homes, helping them to target fruitful locations for break-ins. To prevent this situation, drop the signal: power your devices down if you leave them behind. Or, you can bring them with you to keep an eye on them.
10. Antisocial networking
So many details of our lives end up online, which only serves to help thieves in their sinister efforts. For one thing, many people post a slew of personal details on sites such as Facebook. Instantly, a shady character can learn your name, profession, relationship status, age, hometown, pets’ names and more.
So criminals can use your lifted details to hack your accounts, but that’s not the only way social media works against you. They’ll also use your posts to help them plan crimes of opportunity. For example, if you share that you’re away on vacation, someone could come and burgle your home.
9. Good, old-fashioned hacking
When you think of tech-savvy thieves, you probably think of them sitting in a dark room, typing furiously on a keyboard, illuminated by the glow of their computer monitor. It would certainly take a smart criminal to hack into your smartphone or computer this way. However, doing so would indeed yield a wealth of information about you.
You only have a few options when it comes to saving yourself from a hacker. When a website suggests you strengthen a password, heed the warning. The tougher it is to break your secret code, the safer your account will be. Otherwise, keep a close eye on your bank accounts to see if money goes missing. If that happens, you might have a hacker on your hands.
8. Stuck smartphone
Some thieves incorporate modern technology into an old-school trick meant to separate you from your valuables. Once upon a time, pickpockets would glue coins to the ground to catch the eyes of their unwitting victims. Nowadays, they’ll go so far as to adhere a smartphone to the same area.
Whether they use a coin or iPhone, thieves know that they have a powerful distraction. When a person bends down to pick up the smartphone, for instance, they’ll struggle to do so because the device is glued down. This pause gives pickpocket time to pluck wallets from pockets or grab purses and run. So, refrain from picking up any dropped phones: it could be a distraction from the fact that you’re getting robbed.
7. Pharming for data
If you fail to pay attention to your web browser for just a few seconds, you could fall victim to pharming. These nefarious sites redirect you from your chosen link to a different, compromised site. Once you enter information about yourself, it ends up in the hands of the unsavory individuals who created the bad link.
It can be tough to tell when you’ve ended up on a pharming site: they often look like legitimate websites, the ones you wanted to visit in the first place. So, always double-check that you’re on a secure webpage by checking that the closed padlock is still to the left of the web address. This symbol ensures that you’re on a safe site.
6. Corporate information coup
Not every thief works in the shadows: sometimes, a trusted corporation can give up your information to a third party. Of course, it won’t do so on purpose. It simply stores its clients’ information in what it thinks is a secure system. Then, hackers find a way in and steal thousands of customers’ data: a terrible outcome for you and the business responsible for the breach.
You can’t be sure which companies will compromise your data and which ones will protect it with stronger security. The best way to protect your information is to stick with businesses you trust. Most of the time, your instincts will be correct, and following them now could save you a huge data breach-related headache in the future.
5. Tossed thumb drives
When you see a shiny object on the ground, your instinct might tell you to pick it up. However, if the item happens to be a flash drive, leave it where you find it. Sometimes, thieves use these small storage devices as a tool in their information-stealing schemes. All it takes is for you to bring the thumb drive home and plug it into your computer.
These seemingly dropped thumb drives actually come packed with malware that will compromise your hard drive. Once one such drive mines the computer of your personal data, it sends the information to another computer. This type of modern thievery can be one of the most dangerous out there, so avoid – or throw away – dropped flash drives from now on.
4. Shoulder surfing
You slip your card into the ATM and follow the prompts on the screen. When it comes time to type in your PIN, you do so quickly. But your fast-moving fingers are no competition for the shoulder surfer behind you. Soon enough, you’ll realize that you have been scammed.
A shoulder-surfer glances over your shoulder as you use the ATM. They either memorize your PIN or they photograph you as you enter the code. Either way, they gain access to your account by watching you withdraw cash. To avoid dealing with an account-emptying surfer, always cover the PIN pad so no one can see your numbers.
3. Access badge-cloning
Access badges make it easy to slip in and out of an office building or residence. Rather than fumbling through a set of keys that get you through multiple doors, you can swipe your badge and gain instant access. However, for all their convenience, access badges can pose a security threat.
Specifically, it’s easy to duplicate access badges, which react to electrical fields created by card readers. Once activated, a badge sends a bespoke number to the reader so that it will unlock for your keycard specifically. With a $10 machine, according to Popular Mechanics magazine, thieves can figure out the badge’s number, replicate the card and infiltrate the locked building.
Those who actually spearfish throw their weapon into the water, hoping they’ll pull it out with one good fish attached, The same methodology goes into spear phishing. However, those behind such a scheme will send the same email to every one of a company’s employees. The message will ask everyone to provide the same information, typically to the Human Resources (HR) or IT departments.
As you can guess, in a spear-phishing ploy, it won’t be the HR rep or IT manager asking for information. So, to save yourself from a phishing threat, reach out to your coworker who supposedly sent the email. If they don’t need updates on your personal information, then you’re being spear-phished – keep the data to yourself.
Finally, you should be wary of unexpected phone calls, especially if they come from a government agency, financial institution or other well-known company. Sometimes, thieves conduct faux calls and disguise their aims by saying they work for such an important organization. From there, they ask for personal details to help them achieve their dishonest aims.
If you don’t get a call from a real person, you still could fall victim to vishing (short for voice-phishing). Robocalls prompting you to call another number could be a form of thievery. Once you reach out to claim a prize or respond to a supposed emergency, you’ll have to hand over personal data in exchange for what you want. You’re better off hanging up.