Journal of Information & Privacy Law

“This is not my TV!” – Digital Pickpockets

By Agnieszka ("Agnes") Dudek, Production Editor on Monday, December 1st, 2014
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Nowadays, identity theft involving credit cards has become a common theme in the news. In the past, thieves were able to obtain imprint of our credit cards from the carbon copies. Although some of the thieves are stealing our credit cards before we can even realize it, others are implementing novel ways to obtain our credit cards data, such as online shopping account. In today’s world, we can forget about the “archaic purse-snatcher.” Thus, digital pickpockets are driving the 21st century. With the help of technology and use of intellectual skills, “digital thieves” are able to steal our credit card within a second.

While looking at the hi-tech advances and inventions, the carbon copies technique seems to be no longer in place. Nowadays, technology allows the thieves to obtain our credit card information much quicker and the strategies they implement are simpler than we think. Most of you will agree, that each of us has already become or will become a victim of digital pickpockets at least once. How is it possible? How can we prevent it?

There are few common ways for digital pickpockets to obtain our credit card data. When you spend your precious time with your family at the restaurant and you try to enjoy your dessert, you hand your credit card to the waitress to take care of the bill. The waitress leaves and then she returns with a bill for you to sign. Do you exactly know what she did with your credit card when she was gone? She could swipe your card through a “ skimmer”[1] that is capable of storing your credit card data. Skimmers are also employed at the gas stations and ATMs. Skimmer is attached over the credit card reader at the pump station it emits a Bluetooth signal to a computer that is usually located in close distance c to that gas station. Another way your credit card information can be stolen is through websites with low security. The digital thieves are capable of installing a malware that can infiltrates website “X.” Then, when you visit website “X” the malware downloads onto your computer and once you type your credit card information, the same thieve who installed the malware on website “X” can see your credit card data.

After digital thieves stored your credit card data, it is sold! Yes, it is sold to a person who is able to create a deceitful credit card that links to your account. Then, after few days, you find out that you have just bought the 42” TV in Target located 120 miles away from your house. The only question is: “Where is the TV”?!

However, do not you fear! There are some ways we can reduce the risk of becoming a victim of stolen credit card data or even prevent it. First, if provided by our banks, we can set up mobile alerts on our phones. In case of some unusual activity, the bank can notify us immediately via text, voice or email and act. Second, we should systematically review our bank statements. This also includes monitoring our accounts online. Third, if you need to use public computers, try not to log onto your bank account or email account. Simply, wait until you get home! Fourth, try not to place orders online with unfamiliar websites or merchants or provide your credit card information, including the security code over the phone. What seems to save you money in the beginning may cost you much more in near future. Fifth, do not use unfamiliar ATM machines. Sixth, if unwanted party has obtained your credit card data, immediately notify local law enforcement as well as credit reporting agencies.

Although we cannot be absolved from identity theft, with a better understanding of how digital pickpockets “run their business” we can stay one step ahead of them.

 

 

 

 

 



[1] What Is a Credit Card Skimmer?, ehow, http://www.ehow.com/about_6562704_credit-card-skimmer_.html (last visited Nov. 22, 2014)

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