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Making A Clean Break From Data Brokers And Cybercriminals

Published: August 27, 2023 on our newsletter Security Fraud News & Alerts Newsletter.

In this digital jungle we call the Internet, it seems like everyone wants a piece of your personal data. But fear not! You don't have to have superpowers to protect yourself, but you can take matters into your own hands and it doesn’t require much effort, really. It just takes a bit of vigilance and awareness to stay on top of the risks to your data. And if you do accidentally click a link or open an attachment and get compromised, it’s OK. It happens so don’t beat yourself up about it. However, it’s not a bad idea to know what happens to your data and how to keep it out of the “data market.”

Let's talk about data brokers. These companies collect and sell your personal information without asking for your permission and they are aplenty! They use it for all sorts of purposes like targeted marketing and advertising to fill up your social media feeds, and even for People Search Sites. Yep, anyone can stroll in and get their hands on your info, which could lead to fraud and identity theft. So, what can you do about it? For starters, limit what’s available to them.

We live in an age where people willingly spill the beans about their lives on social media. I mean, who can resist sharing those vacation videos or pics of their latest culinary masterpieces? But sometimes we unknowingly spill more than we intended. We forget to read the fine print in those privacy policies before clicking "Accept” just because, well, it’s just easier than reading pages of words. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t.

And then there are surveys and forms. When you fill out these online forms and surveys, you're giving away goodies like your name, address, date of birth, address, and all kinds of other info. If you haven't checked that privacy policy, you might as well know that you’re wrapping it up as a gift for those data brokers. They will sell it and even if you don’t think it has value, it is guaranteed that someone will.

Oh, and don't forget about social media. Data brokers and others love lurking in the virtual shadows, spying on you and your loved ones. They'll snatch up tidbits about your life, your friends, and even your shopping habits. Next thing you know, they're selling all that juicy infomation to marketing and advertising companies, who will bombard you with tailored ads until you're sick of seeing them. And aren’t you already tired of seeing them? I know I am.

And worse than that, someone (anyone) can collate all of that information and use it in targeted and very specific phishing attacks.

Here’s an example. A friend kept getting notifications that someone was trying to change her Facebook password. She changed her password, made sure two-factor authentication was active, and thought all was good. Next thing she knows, someone is trying to get into her account for her favorite coffee shop.

You see, it was all over her Facebook page how much she loves that particular coffee shop, so the attacker may have checked her page, saw that, and tried a password found on the dark web to check on other accounts where she may have payment information stored. Fortunately, she had secured all her accounts with 2FA and as far as she knows, her accounts are still in her control.

It could have gone down some other way entirely, but that scenario is not far-fetched at all.

Protecting your online identity is crucial. So, stay sharp, read those privacy policies, and be mindful of what you share online. It's your personal data, and you should have an idea of what will happen to it if you divulge it online. You can click “do not agree,” but you should always activate 2FA and have a unique password for each and every online account.

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