One of the positives of the Internet is that you can find almost anything at the click of a button. Unfortunately, so can computer hackers. Given the advancements in technology and people’s willingness to openly share personal information online, the digital landscape has become fraught with reports of identity theft scams. “Stealing a person’s identity online is so common these days,” says Gregory D. Evans Founder/CEO of LIGATT Security, an Atlanta-based company that specializes in cybercrime prevention. “Because people put out more personal information about themselves on these dating sites than they would on some other sites.”
It’s gotten to a point now, though, that you don’t even have to be online to be susceptible. Memphis, TN’s News Channel 3 recently ran a report on electronic pickpocketing that revealed how cybercriminals can steal your credit card or passport information—including your photo—without even touching your wallet. Using Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology, which allows us to simply swipe our cards to make payments, they can download all your pertinent information in a matter of seconds. Companies like Identity Stronghold offer a variety of products to block the scanning technology, but that’s only one small deterrent to a much bigger problem that leaves an estimated 140 million customers at-risk. “Really, the Internet is so out of control that anybody can do anything they want on the Internet and get away with it,” says Evans. “This is one reason why cybercrime and identity theft just exploded overnight.”
Experts warn that consumers should be diligent about keeping tabs on their bank and credit card statements, as well as being sure to not reveal too much while using social media sites like Facebook and Twitter because you never know who’s watching. Evans advises that people should also make a habit of looking themselves up online regularly to see if there are any fallacies about them online. That’s what helped University of Florida student Zachary Garcia, 18, discover that he was wrongfully accused of murder. Turns out another Zachery Garcia, spelled with an “e” instead of an “a” and coincidentally shared the same birth date, was an accomplice to a murder earlier in the year and police mistakenly released Zachary’s driver’s license photo to the media instead of Zachery’s. Police quickly corrected the error and alerted all media outlets of the mix up but given the viral nature of the Web the erroneous information may never be erased completely.
“How do you protect yourself from that? You always have to Google [yourself] because there will be people out there who will steal your identity or you’ll have somebody with the exact same name as you living in the exact same city and you just don’t know,” says Evans, who also suggests purposely misspelling your name to widen your search results. “Seeing cases like this one with the murder [charge] is kind of scary but it’s common.”
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