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You earned it – Now protect it

By Kirsten Faherty

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Beware of unsecured networks when using your electronic devices.

A few years ago, my husband and I were in Las Vegas for a much-needed vacation. We were shopping and stopped at a café that offered free wireless. I didn’t have my phone with me, but I did have my USB player that is Wi-Fi enabled and wanted to check the headlines and my email. We were in the café for about 10 minutes. Fully caffeinated and caught up on the news, we went on our way.

While still on vacation, I received a courtesy call from our bank wanting to know if I’d recently authorized a purchase to an online music service. “Yes I did, for about $15,” I replied, remembering I’d downloaded some music and videos to watch on my player before we left.

On our way home from the airport, I tried to use my check card at the gas station and it was declined. I was stunned and embarrassed… and then panicked. As our family’s CFO, I know at all times how much money we have available. I knew we had plenty of funds in our checking account, even after our vacation spending. I hurriedly paid with a credit card and went home to call our bank.

After a lot of phone calls and research, I put together what happened. I’d saved my check card as a form of payment on the online music service account – I like to pay cash for just about everything. In those few moments at the café while I was online, a hacker was able to view my account information and pull my check card number. The thieves accessed our checking account tentatively at first, with a $1 preauthorization to what looked like it came from the music service – that’s what generated the courtesy call. Once I told the bank that I believed that charge was legitimate, the floodgates were open: in small increments that would be undetectable to the unobservant, the hacker charged our checking account for hundreds of dollars.

I’ll save you the painful details of what I had to go through to get our account reimbursed, but I’d also like to save you from being in a similar predicament. Individual attacks might seem unlikely; it’s clearly a bigger score for a thief to gain access to thousands of accounts at once through a security breach. But considering my experience, you should be …read more

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