I come bearing bad news. Unfortunately my debit card was recently compromised from someone trying to use it in Arizona. How they have my information all the way over there, I have no idea. But since then I have talked to family members and did my research on how to protect myself from this happening again. This kind of thing is VERY common and it can happen to anyone so I wanted to share my tips for staying safe from hackers that I’ve found so you can stay safe in the virtual world!
1. Don’t Pay at the Pump!
This is the #1 way hackers can get your card info. There have been so many scanners found inside of gas pumps that when you scan your card for gas you are also scanning for someone remotely to get all of your info! I would also avoid using your cards at busy public spaces as well such as local bars or clubs, it is just too risky.
Staying Safe: It is safer to go inside and use your card at the register if you absolutely need to use your card. The even safer way to avoid this is to just use cash at the gas station!
2. Stay Away From Public Wi-Fi’s
I know this one is a hard one for college aged people because we all want wi-fi but this is also a place where people can get your information. If you are on your school’s public wi-fi, someone else could also be on there hacking into computers for saved card information to use. There have also been stories of people sitting right outside of coffee shops posted with their own wi-fi names “Starbucks” so people would join it thinking it is the store’s wi-fi but as soon as you connect, they have your information.
Staying Safe: Be safe on public networks! You don’t know who else is on that network with you. When connecting to a public wi-fi at a restaurant or shop look for the confirmation page that you have to click “Agree” to continue on, or even go to the counter to double check they even have wi-fi and which one is the correct one.
3. Don’t Buy Anything Online With Your Debit Card
I know online shopping is very popular right now, I am VERY guilty of it myself. Be cautious about the sites you are shopping on. Look at the reviews and make sure you aren’t buying from a company known for scamming it’s customers. Tying this point in with #2, don’t make purchases while on a public wi-fi. Again, as soon as you type in your numbers someone else on that network could have access to it if they know what they are doing.
Staying Safe: I advise using a credit card to buy things online and then immediately paying your bill with your debit card after the purchase. If you do not have a credit card you could also purchase a Visa reloadable gift card (with cash) and fill it up with the amount needed to make online purchases. This way if someone compromises these numbers it is to a temporary card, not to your debit card.
4. Don’t Save Your Information on Websites
When checking out online do not save your card information on their site. We shouldn’t be using our cards online anyways, per tip #3, but if we need to don’t save your information.
Staying Safe: If you will be paying on a site frequently, for bills let’s say, I suggest going through the small hassle of typing in your information every time, on your own secure wi-fi network, than risk saving your information on their site and risk it getting compromised.
5. Avoid Writing Down Your Information Anywhere
You don’t want your information accidentally getting into the wrong hands. You shouldn’t have duplicate numbers written down anywhere, kept in your car, purse, or wallet. If someone were to break in or steal any of these items then they would have other information.
Staying Safe: Avoid writing anything down that is of importance, this includes your social security number. If for some reason you need a copy of it, keep it locked up in a safe or filing cabinet and not in a public space.
6. Don’t Click on Advertisements
This is the fastest way to open the gates of viruses and hackers into your system. As soon as you click on an advertisement from a sketchy site you’re inviting so many things onto your device that can go through your information and potentially shut down your device.
Staying Safe: Don’t click on ads or banners on websites. Listen to your browsers pop-up blockers and don’t visit sketchy sites. You don’t want to open up your device to potential viruses and hackers.
There are plenty of more ways to avoid getting hacked but I wanted to touch on the top 5 that I will be putting into place in my own life because of this. I also wanted to explain that I am by no means a hacker or a technical specialist so I am unaware of how hackers do what they do, just that they do it. So please try and stay safe with your personal information and be sure to keep an eye on your statements to catch anything out of the ordinary!