Not long ago, a company where I’d done business for many years rejected the password to my account. Frustrated, I sent an email, asking if there was trouble on the site. There was none. They confirmed my password by return message.
Frankly, I was stunned. I wasn’t aware the retailer could access my password. Worse, by sending secure information over the internet, they’d breached the safety of my account. A few minutes later, my fears were justified. A ransom demand appeared on my screen. I needed to pay $500 in bit coins to prevent pornographic pictures of me being published on the internet. The blackmailer typed in my password to assure me the threat was real.
Naturally, I laughed. This was the second demand of a similar nature I’d received during the past month. At 82, I’d be fascinated to see those pictures.
Still, the brigand reminded me that using the internet is risky. Revealing one’s birthday is a bad idea, for example. So many medical providers use that date to file personal information.
The AARP Bulletin (Vol 60, No 1, pg. 26.) has published some security advice that is worth repeating. Be wary of contests. Marketeers pay good money for that information. Warranty cards that come with the new toaster or coffee maker and surveys present the same risk. I toss them out.
Keep personal information on social media to a minimum. Most of us know to share travel pictures or restaurant selfies after we get home. No need to give burglars notice the house in unoccupied.
Shred private mail as a precaution. Writers Amy Nofzifger and Mark Fetterhoff, consumer fraud experts, confirm that “Messy garbage won’t deter a bad guy.” And, heartless though it may seem, if there’s a death in the family, these experts suggest we, “Honor the dead, but keep personal information to a minimum.”
Back in the 1950’s, when I was a teenager, I might have been heard to lament, “Nobody cares who I am.” Today, unfortunately, too many do.