Tag Archives: Missouri City

Easy Target for Identity Theft Update

Less than a week after writing a blog about staying safe online and protecting your confidential DSC08847-Binformation from thieves, I made a rookie mistake. It’s embarrassing to admit that even though I know better, every now and then I throw caution to the wind and make a payment online using an unsecured wireless network on a site without proper encryption technology. This is the equivalent of inputting passwords on a public computer (Very bad). What happened to me is a cautionary tale that won’t happen to you if you’re reading this and take heed.

The office building where I work has an unsecured wireless network that essentially everyone in the building has access to. Guests and visitors can’t access it without the password, but the hundreds of other people on this floor are all sharing the same WiFi. For the four years of my business residence, this has been a non-issue. Then, suddenly I found the perfect guitar accessory online: a gold capo. For the non-musicians out there, a capo is a clamp that you use to change a guitar’s pitch for certain songs. The best part about this capo? It costed a mere $2.14. I was sold.

When I processed my payment, I used my credit card, pressed order and went on about my day. I received the capo about a week later, and life was good. Until a few days passed, and I noticed an email receipt for $5.00 at Coca Cola. Strange. I don’t recall buying anything for that amount. A few minutes later, I got an email receipt for $12.54 at a costume store in Las Vegas, Nevada. I knew foul play was afoot. Immediately, I called the bank and started the dispute process and hung my head in shame. How could I advise people on protecting their information when I’m online buying guitar accessories with reckless abandon?

I’m not sure if one of my coworkers stole my card information right before vacation or if a random teenage internet hacker caught me by surprise to teach me a valuable lesson. In any case, the hyper vigilance campaign is on. Learn from my mistakes and be smarter online and in life. Change your passwords often. Make your online purchases from reputable websites with payment encryption in place for their transactions. And never ever, under any circumstances, trust your fellow travelers on an unsecured network. You don’t know who you’re surfing with at that coffee bar or restaurant, so why take the risk?

For legal advice when it counts, contact me at (713) 574-8626

Are You an Easy Target for Identity Theft?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn the course of my practice, I have met some lovely people facing unfortunate circumstances. No one is thrilled about filing for consumer bankruptcy, but that feeling is multiplied ten fold when it is due to someone else ruining your finances. Within the past few years, I’ve met an increasing number of identity theft victims. Not all of them had to seekĀ  bankruptcy protection, but every single one of them felt vulnerable and violated. It is the attorney’s role to protect the private information of her clients, so we take the necessary precautions at the office to do so. It is also my job to share this knowledge with others in the interest of a more equitable and just society. Here are four key ways to safeguard your personal information.

1. Store your personal documents in a safe place. Your social security card, medical records, credit card offers, and tax returns should be kept in a locked cabinet or a safe deposit box in a bank. The number of people whose identities are stolen as a result of a stolen purse or wallet containing their social security card is astonishing. Don’t carry it with you. Similarly, your mail contains information that a thief can use to impersonate you in stores or online to open credit accounts. Be sure to check it promptly, and consider opting out of promotional offers.

2. Keep an eye on your accounts. Most banks and credit card issuers have a process for investigating suspicious transactions, but you can’t alert them promptly if you don’t check your account history on a regular basis. Sign up for online banking and be on the look out for transactions you don’t recognize. It’s also not a bad idea to subscribe to a monthly credit monitoring service to confirm that your debts are reported accurately and reflect only your account activity. If you don’t want to pay for credit monitoring, you can always request a free copy of your credit report every calendar year at www.annualcreditreport.com.

3. Be cautious about sharing on social media. Many people (myself included) are active on social media in one way or another. That’s fine. No judgment here. However, if you’re traveling to Tahiti for your yearly vacation with the family, it might be wise not to announce it on Facebook. You never know who your friends are connected to, and depending on your security settings, you could be announcing your departure to a large number of people you don’t know at all. No one likes to think about the fact that when you are abroad, your home is fair game for thieves for the entire duration of your trip. Tell your close friends and family your whereabouts. Your status updates and photos can come after you’ve enjoyed all that Tahiti has to offer.

4. Mind the shoulder snoopers. When you’re in the grocery store checkout, and the time comes for you to swipe or insert your card, sometimes you’re not alone. Sometimes there is a personĀ  possibly unfamiliar with Western standards for personal space. That person may be hovering over your shoulder. What do you do? If you’re able to swipe your card, and you’re using a debit card, run it as a credit card. This way you can bypass the need to insert your pin. If you’re using an EMV chip card, it may be a good idea to cover the key pad or ask the cashier to enter your transaction as a credit purchase. A person who is physically close to you can look over your shoulder and clearly see your PIN number, and if he or she has a credit card cloning device, could make many more transactions from your card without you ever knowing. EMV chip technology has cut down on some of the risk of card cloning, but not every card issuer has embraced chip technology. It may seem rude to be suspicious of your neighbors, but better safe than sorry.

There are wallets that claim to protect your cards from cloning. They have mixed reviews at best, but with some simple common sense, you can avoid being victimized by thieves. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Be safe out there.

For more information on this topic, feel free to contact me at (713) 574-8626. I’d love to hear your thoughts.