Equifax. Wells Fargo. Uber. Cathay Pacific Airways. Marriott. Quora. Under Armour. Facebook. Google. What do these companies all have in common? They all experienced data breaches in the last two years.
In fact, according to a Wikipedia listing, 28 companies have leaked the personal data of over 667,340,000 individuals since 2017! That is an astounding number. It is 9.5% of the total population of the Earth! With that many impacted, the chances are high that your personal information was leaked.
It seems like there is little that can be done to stop these breaches from occurring. But you can take steps to protect yourself from those who would use your personal data against you.
How Data Breaches Impact You
Along with bank account or credit card numbers, data breaches also can release information such as passwords, email addresses, mailing addresses and phone numbers. This kind of information is a goldmine to scammers.
One such scam that took advantage of the leaked data was exposed in September 2018. FoxNews.com reports that it involved sending an email that claimed your computer was infected with a Remote Access Trojan (RAT) software that allowed the sender to gain access to your email contacts and passwords. Most likely, that wasn’t the case but just a claim to get the reader worried.
The email then claimed to have a video, shot using your computer’s camera, which showed you watching pornography. Then scammers moved to extortion by threatening to send the video to your whole email list unless you pay up. To add a little credibility to this scam, the senders included a password from one of your accounts.
Other scams will send emails and use logos of the companies you buy from and claim there is a problem with your account. They will direct you to a website and ask you to input your login and password. Don’t do this. Delete the email right away and call that company directly to ask questions.
These are just a few examples of the types of scams that are happening. Unfortunately, none of them would be possible without obtaining personal information from data breaches.
What You Can Do
If you receive these types of emails, suspicious phone calls, or even visits to your front door, the best thing you can do is stop the communication. Delete the message, get off the phone and close the door.
If they claim to be from a business you know, call that company and ask questions.
Be sure to change the passwords on all of your accounts regularly, too. While this might be a bit inconvenient, it will save you a lot of hassles in the long run. You should also do this on your computer and all of your social media and other online accounts, as well.
Finally, EverythingZoomer.com has some additional tips that will help you defend yourself against scams.
Wrapping It Up
There are no guarantees in life. Just as you have to protect yourself by looking both ways before you cross a street, you also need to take steps to make sure you don’t become a target for hackers and scammers.
Be smart when you are surfing the internet. Don’t go to suspicious sites, and don’t download anything without having 100% trust in the website you’re visiting.
If you have any questions about how to be safe while you are online, call me at 513-237-5530.
Bob Turner is a Digital Marketing Consultant with RevLocal in Cincinnati, Ohio.