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A Fool and His Money Are Soon Parted

By   /  March 27, 2015  /  No Comments

by Cathy Nolan

This proverb which goes back to at least the 16th Century is appropriate any time of year, but since we designate a day for fools in April, it’s a good time to think about the ways we can avoid being foolish with our online privacy and ultimately our money. Consider these tales of woe and how identity or personal data theft could have been avoided.

Clarise was taking her time gazing into the frozen food cabinet and mulling over ice cream flavors. When she turned around her wallet was gone from her purse in the shopping basket. She had 3 credit cards, and debit card. She reported the theft to her credit card companies but several days later she tried to withdraw money from her checking account and found thieves had cleaned it out. The bank said they would reimburse her, but it could take weeks until the money was back in her account.

Solution: Limit what you carry. When you go out, take only the identification, and credit card you need. Don’t use debit cards unless you absolutely have to, if they are stolen it can take weeks to retrieve any stolen money, in the meantime you are without funds.

Jessie was checking out of a home goods store when she was asked for her zip code. She gave the clerk her zip but wondered why they needed it. The same day she began getting online solicitations from other home goods companies.

Solution: No store needs your zip code to sell you a product   This location information is combined with your credit card info and sold to data brokers—often the same day!

Larry got an email from his bank asking him to verify his account by typing in his social security number password. When he went to the bank a week later, he found someone had made an online transfer of thousands of dollars from his savings account.

Solution: Don’t give out personal information by email or over the phone. If a company with whom you have an account asks for your social security number, password or other identifying information, call the customer service number listed on your account statement. Ask whether the company really sent a request. And don’t click on any unfamiliar email links as they may contain malware.

Carl ordered a pizza and called in the order because he was worried about paying online. However, he forgot that a 17 year-old clerk was taking down his credit card info. A few days later his credit card company asked him if he had purchased a PlayStation and spent several hundred dollars on games.

Solution: Pay in cash upon delivery of your order. Many of these take-out places keep your credit card information to speed up future orders. Do you really want a bunch of kids having your credit card numbers? The same goes for restaurants–have the server bring the credit card machine to the table (if possible) so you can swipe your card without someone making a copy.

Brad loved to play games on his phone but he hated to read all the “lawyer” stuff in the privacy statements. He never knew his information was being collected by data brokers and combined with other information to create a profile of his interests and buying habits.

Solution: Read all privacy policies. Yes, they can be long and complex, but they tell you how the site maintains accuracy, access, security, and control of the personal information it collects; how it uses the information, and whether it provides information to third parties. If you don’t see or understand a site’s privacy policy, consider doing business elsewhere.

Follow these suggestions and you stand a pretty good chance of not being the fool who was parted from his hard-earned cash!!

About the author

Cathy Nolan has an MBA in Business Administration and 25 years’ experience as an Information Analyst. When she became a victim of identity fraud through the hacking of her credit card information, she began extensive investigation into credit card and identity theft. Her research led to co-authoring The Audacity to Spy: How Government, Business and Hackers Rob Us of Privacy with Ashley Wilson, a book which describes the many ways personal information is being compromised and how the average person can protect themselves and their digital assets.

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