This year has seen the sentencing
of defendants in one of the largest credit card fraud schemes ever charged by the DOJ (Department of Justice). The scheme in question resulted in over $200 million in losses to businesses and financial institutions.
Credit card fraud is but one form of identity theft facing Americans today and the trend is only mushrooming as we speak. An annual survey found that there were 16.7 million victims in 2017 alone. 46 percent of Americans were the victims of credit card fraud between 2012 and 2017.
Furthermore, in terms of the global threat of such activity, 47 percent of the world's credit card fraud occurs in the U.S. To put the pervasiveness of it into perspective, a survey by Javelin Strategy shows that there is a new identity theft victim every two seconds.
According to the Nilson Report, fraud losses have reached $22.80 billion. Clearly, this is a problem that needs to be dealt with and it's something that everyone — not just businesses and banks — need to grapple with.
Private citizens are vulnerable to both credit and debit card abuse. The ACI has said that 21 percent of Americans have dealt with debit card fraud in the last 5-plus years.
U.S. consumers are known to be heavy credit card users, so much so that a survey from 2016 reflected a volume of 25 million consumers having a long-term relationship with their favorite credit card for a minimum of a decade. An additional 20 million have never changed their preferred card, much like people do not get in the habit of changing passwords to their accounts (another bad idea).
This points to part of the problem and why people in the U.S. are at an increased risk of fraud. Today, there are few places that one is safe when using a payment card. Sophisticated criminals are using small devices called “skimmers” at gas pumps and ATM machines.
These compact, seemingly undetectable devices capture and store all of the details stored within a person's credit or debit card's magnetic strip. Thieves can use this information to gain access to one's finances which is why it is imperative that Americans educate themselves about this potential danger.
It is relatively simple, once one is paying proper attention, to discern whether a skimmer has been installed at a point-of-sale location, but there are other methods of credit card fraud that can affect even the passive U.S. consumer.
For those who do their shopping online, stolen card data is a significant problem, one that has been steadily on the rise since 2016. As brick-and-mortar retailers have taken measures to beef up security at their checkout lines, criminals have flocked to the internet as an alternative means of accruing poached assets.
Following the introduction of the microchip-equipped card in 2015, which makes it more difficult to counterfeit, thieves focused their efforts on new account fraud. If a credit card bill hasn't arrived, it can be because an identity thief has gotten hold of one's account and changed the billing address associated with the account.
Criminals send emails with attachments that offer one form of bait or another and when one clicks on said attachment, their computer is invaded by malware and other malicious software. This and similar schemes have become ever more popular in recent years.
The good news is, there are many tactics that one can take to protect themselves against the onslaught of cyberattacks. Credit card monitoring services can offer detailed information, preventative measures and other resources. You can read about the companies here.
As I've mentioned before, the best tool that one can have at their disposal is a virtual private network (VPN). These VPN solutions deliver all of the protection individuals need to keep their online banking and shopping activity secure, private, and anonymous.
There are many privacy tools available to the general public that one is unlikely to have heard from. Choosing the right browser (Tor is the best for anonymity), warrant canaries (a warrant canary is a document that lets you know if an organization has received secret subpoenas during a specific point in time) and leak tests are some of the thing that internet users can do to safeguard themselves against the scrutiny and abuse.
For consumers who are using Firefox, there are a number of excellent add-ons including Privacy Badger which stops third-party trackers dead in their tracks and HTTPS Everywhere which encrypts your communications with most major websites.
Sites like Amazon, Facebook, and Google integrate advanced features that track your activity, but if you're using Firefox, you can get your hands on uMatrix, a tool that puts users in control of the requests that websites make to other websites. This assists one in overseeing what gets leaked online.
Everyone would do well to choose their email providers carefully as well. Some are far more privacy-conscious than others, such as ProtonMail, Tutanota and Mailfence, all of which have built-in encryption and provide plenty of megabytes.
The best part is, these encrypted email providers are free to set up and free to use, so the more frugal user doesn't have to turn to second-rate providers to save money on emailing.
Last month was a relatively light month for data breaches, but the rising tide of malicious attacks is always on the horizon.
Currently, more than $2 trillion a year comes from e-commerce accounts. This goes far towards explaining why we are all a target for cybercriminals. But thankfully, there are many implements out there that can serve as a shield against the trojan horse that is modern technology.
Sam Bocetta is a defense contractor for the U.S. Navy, a defense analyst, and a freelance journalist. He specializes in finding radical — and often heretical — solutions to "impossible" ballistics problems. Through Lakeview Capital, he also cultivates funding for projects — usually naval, defense, and UAV startups. He writes about naval engineering, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, marine ops, program management, defense contracting, export control, international commerce, patents, InfoSec, cryptography, cyberwarfare, and cyberdefense. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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