Keeping you safer online
32 year-old Hamilton Jenkins* first realized something was very wrong when she got a registered letter from a court 800 miles away. The owner of an apartment complex had won a judgement against her for non-payment of rent, and the court had frozen her checking account and garnished her wages to pay the $60,000 bill. The owner of a second apartment complex was in the process of filing suit against her for skipping rent payments.
Hamilton hired an attorney to appeal and weeks later flew to the city for the appeal. At first, the judge scolded her publicly for being reckless about signing contracts and not paying her bills. But by supplying pay stubs, copies of bills and receipts stretching back years, she convinced the judge that her identity had been stolen by someone who had chosen her at random because her first name could be that of a man or woman. Eventually, the crook was caught and convicted.
In the months it took to reverse the verdict and address other purchases the crook had made in her name, Hamilton had to borrow money from her parents to live. She missed work in order to address claims against her. The crisis led to a bout with depression and took nearly two years to resolve. “It was the worst ordeal I’ve ever been through.”
Having your identity stolen is one of the most stressful crimes you can suffer because it’s so difficult track where and how much damage has been done. On average, fixing a case of identity theft requires 150 hours of work and takes six months. The average victim will lose more than $10,000.
Identity theft victims must deal with bills for purchases they didn’t make, focus on repairing their credit ratings and often take time off work to deal with issues that arise. In some cases, victims must even borrow money from family and even pawn items to cover expenses related to the crime.
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HACKERS’ CHANGING TACTICS: As smartphones become harder to hack, fraudsters are instead focusing on wireless home routers, security cameras and smart light bulbs. Motherboard reports these devices are much less secure than phones and can be hacked to obtain sensitive personal and employer information from users’ home computers. Their advice: when purchasing a wireless device, take time to change the password it came with.
THE NEW FACEBOOK: Facing an outcry over privacy plus an unmistakable trend of young people choosing rival Snapchat instead, Facebook says it will change its business model. In coming years, the company will focus on allowing users to send private messages to each other instead of presenting a newsfeed with open conversations. (But Facebook will continue to target users with personalized advertising.) The Wall Street Journal says the first step, coming later this year, will be a “clear history” button that allows Facebook users to delete all the content they’ve ever posted.
WARNING TO PARENTS: TikTok, the wildly popular app that allows users to post 15 second videos, is paying an FTC fine for illegally collecting personal information from users age 12 and younger. Vox says TikTok is under fire for being a “hunting ground” for child predators who use the app’s internal messaging system. TikTok collects names, phone numbers, email addresses and profile pictures of its users. A UK study concluded one in four children who use TikTok had connected with strangers.
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* Name has been changed for this article
Cyber Cartoon: Paul Noth/The New Yorker Collection/The Cartoon Bank
Icon author: Pixel Perfect
Background image by geralt via Pixabay
March 2019 b • Edition #66
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