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  • Writer's pictureBurton Kelso, Tech Expert

How Do Hackers Steal Your Personal Information?

Imagine this scenario. You're shopping at a store. You go to the checkout to make your purchase. All of a sudden you get an email receipt. How did they get your name, your email, and your credit card information? Criminals don't have to get access to your computer and devices to get your personal information. There are many ways your information falls into the hands of cyber crooks. Most businesses have access to your personal information and many of the point of sale services used such as Square and Clover share this information across their network. In this digital age, you should be aware your information is everywhere, and now more than ever you need to make sure that you know where it is and make sure it doesn't fall into the wrong hands. How do criminals get access to this information that is supposed to be safe and secure? Check out these tips to keep your data safe.

When you deal with any business, their main priority is to keep your information safe and secure. As I stated before, many shops collected your data in a variety of ways such as registering as a "preferred customer" or joining a mailing list for coupons, newsletters, and a variety of other perks. Most do a good job at keeping your data private, but sometimes your information can get out of their hands and into the hands of crooks who are always looking to get access to your data. Here are some of the ways they do it:

Data breaches. One of the most common ways criminals get access to your data is through data breaches. These occur when crooks gain access to a business computer and steal information. Sometimes they release your information on the dark web or they sell your secrets to interested parties who want to steal your identity. In the instance I shared above with POS or point of sale services, like most financial institutions, they do an excellent job keeping your information safe and secure. One of the best ways to see if you're a victim of a data breach is to check out This site will let you know if your information is floating around on the dark web. If you discover that you have been a victim of a data breach, change the passwords to your accounts immediately.

Phishing Emails, Text Messages, and Phone Calls. The places you share your personal information with aren't the only ones guilty of sharing your information with criminals. Phishing schemes are designed to trick you into sharing your info with crooks. Phishing works when you get an Email, text, or phone call from someone pretending to be a representative from a trusted company you've worked with. Using social engineering tactics, they scare you into giving up information like your full name, address, credit card numbers, and more. An example of phishing is if you got a phone call from your cell provider, IRS or a retailer saying there was a problem with your account and they needed a payment to fix the issue. Your first instinct is to fix the issue by providing whatever information is being asked. Once thieves have your info, they can use it to access your account – and run up your credit cards or make purchases. They can even steal all of your private information.

Name Scraping. Another way cybercrooks thieves attempt to steal your info is through name or data scraping. This is where they use 'bots' to pull off a variety of information about you from social media and other websites. Once your information is collected, criminals use this information for spam campaigns or phishing information. Be careful not to share too much information on your social media sites and beware when using web forms on websites. If the website isn't secure, criminals can easily gather your information.

Spoofed Websites. Criminals create spoofed websites that look just like legitimate website to collect your information. Sometimes you will get these websites in the form of a phishing email or text. In other instances, you may see them in a popup that appears in the form of an ad or popup on a legitimate website. When visiting websites, never do it from a link or a popup. Open a browser and type in the website address to access the information you need to access.

Ransomware. In standard Ransomware attacks, criminals will block access by the means of data encryption to your files in exchange for money. More recently, criminals will also steal your files and gather information from them. If you become a victim of ransomware, make sure you change all of your personal information to mitigate the risk of having your personal information used against you.

I hope you can use these tips to understand how criminals can get access to your information. 99% of cybercrime requires user interaction in the way of clicking on links of falling for the variety of schemes out there. If you need further assistance, please reach out to me with any questions you might have. I am always happy to help!

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