Spoiler alert: Sometimes you tell them!
Here are 3 ways – and there are a ton more:
1. Accessing your discarded mail. Some bad guys are low-tech. Like the sifting-through-your-trash or pilfering-your-mailbox-type, who can tape together that one credit card statement you ripped up.
2. Buying your data from other bad guys. Some bad guys earn money selling information they’ve gathered for a different purpose – maybe a product waitlist, rewards cards, et cetera – to their clientele of other bad guys.
3. Scanning the internet for information that you’ve shared. You might not realize it, but a lot of your personal information is out there on the internet. Bad guys are really skilled at digging around for breadcrumbs like your address and phone number, your birth date, and your favorite color. In a matter of minutes, they can have the names of your family members, the street you grew up in, and what you like having for breakfast. With enough determination, some bad guys might even find your passport, credit card details, and social security number.
It matters what you post.
Think of the posts you’ve been seeing on your Facebook newsfeed: “My first car was a ‘78 Chevy Nova! What was yours?” Some of these threads are started by hackers called “social engineers” collecting information that can be used to answer password reset questions.
Sometimes, these bad guys hack random accounts you barely use. Maybe your old Tumblr, your Skype, or a Chipotle account you forgot you set up in 2011. But sometimes, they hack your main online bank account and drain all your hard-earned money out of it.
It seems harmless enough when someone on your network shares trivial things about themselves and asks you to do the same. But remember: when you put it out there, anyone can see it – or worse – use it.
The consequences of sharing your personal information on the internet, if it falls into the wrong hands, are too grave to take lightly. Did you know that in 2021, identity thieves stole around $52 billion from Americans? The Federal Trade Commission received more than 1.4 million reports of identity theft in the past year alone, and the numbers have steadily increased.
That’s why it’s essential to proactively protect your personal data and your online accounts.