Today's post isn't my usual happy and cheerful outlook on life and being creative. It is more or less a warning to all my customers, readers and friends.
Unfortunately, my day yesterday wasn't filled with the happy creativity that I would have liked and planned it to be. I had a disturbing experience and I feel that it is important to share it with you to hopefully help prevent (or at least make you aware) so the same thing is less likely to happen to you. While I am not sure how to fully prevent something like this from happening to me again (or to others) I feel the least I can do is remind you all about some basic practices that should be observed when we are online.
Yesterday my credit card was hacked.
My morning went on as it usually does, with me writing my morning post here and then heading to the gym and post office to get the daily mail on its way and home here to have lunch. While we were making our lunch, we received a phone call from a company who was a cloud server, and had questions regarding our new subscription that we signed up for.
The problem was that we didn't sign up for any such thing. As Keith was speaking to the gentleman and explaining that to him, I quickly pulled up my banking account and saw that there was indeed a charge pending for the cloud service that I never heard of. Unfortunately, there was also a charge in excess of $1,100 pending at an online high-end store that sold purses, shoes, watches, etc. that I had not heard of either. I was sick.
I quickly phoned my bank and they immediately cancelled the card. I was assured that there would be no liability on my part and a new card would be issued. I realized how fortunate that I was that the guy from the cloud server had phoned. Who knows how much damage could have been done if I hadn't been made aware of it so quickly? It scares me to think about it.
It brought to reality something that most of us already know: "People aren't always nice."
As much as we like to look for the best in others, there are people out there who lie, cheat and steal to get what they want. We need to do all we can to protect ourselves against them. (Thus my reminder here today!)
Because the company that these people tried to use the card with had my phone number, it made me realize that not only my credit card number was compromised. Other personal information was known as well. Some of it was close, but incorrect, but it just went to show that whomever the hacker was, probably got the information from a site in which I made a purchase, not from my own information on my computer.
Nonetheless, I spent the afternoon running deep scans on all of my drives and changing all of my passwords. It never pays to be lazy about these things and even though I have them run regularly, you can never be too careful.
It isn't the way I planned to spend my day. I had some wonderful fun things to do. But to be honest with you – by the time I was done with changing everything and scanning everything and making sure my accounts were all secure, I was just spent. I had nothing left in me to have fun or create with.
I wanted to share this with you all today because it is really, really important to take important steps to protect yourself. While I was fortunate to have caught this in time, I am sure there are others who have not. While most banks will cover fraudulent charges against your account, even if they do we ALL wind up paying for it in the end. I hope that reading this will cause you to think a bit and get into the ROUTINE of protecting yourself on a REGULAR basis.
I posted what happened in my status on Facebook yesterday (again – to make others aware of how vulnerable we all can be) and I was astonished at just HOW MANY of my friends have had similar things happen to them. That is why I decided to blog about it today. I want to suggest a few things and remind you to not get lazy about your personal information. The time you spend on protecting yourself will be well worth it in the end. Here are some things I feel that you can do to help protect yourself:
- Change your passwords – OFTEN! (Yes – it is a pain! But you need to do so every month or so to ensure you are safe. My processor forces me to do it, and I used to think it was troublesome, but perhaps that is why their record is so stellar! It is worth the time!)
- Don't use the SAME password for everything! (If one is compromised, they ALL are! It is as simple as that! Don't be lazy about it!)
- Use "nonsense" passwords. (Gibberish, if you will. Alpha-numeric. Upper AND lower case. Not your pet's name or birthday. These thieves have software that tries different passwords and you don't want to help them in any way!)
- NEVER send your passwords or credit card number through emails! NEVER! (I have this happen all the time! If someone maybe has trouble ordering or doesn't want to go to the site, they send me their credit card number/expiration date and code on the back via email. It happened to me a couple of weeks ago. I CRINGED! I immediately called the customer and told them to cancel their card. They didn't see what was wrong with it, and I had to be persistent. People – please understand that emails are NOT secure! If you don't see the little padlock in the address bar of your computer, you are NOT on a secure server and ANYONE can intercept the email!)
- Check your bank accounts OFTEN. Daily at least. Even if you don't use them, it is good to see that all is well and nothing is out of sorts. No news is GOOD news. You need to reassure yourself and not become complacent that things are all "OK".
These are just a few of the precautions you NEED to take. You should also run scans on your computer regularly for 'spyware'. There are free programs that can do this automatically. Spyware comes with other things you download onto your computer (even photos and such sometimes) and can track things you do even when you are not online. There is spyware that can even track key strokes (what you type into the computer) and records things like 16 digit numbers (like credit card numbers) and so forth. That is why on most sites the expiration date is in a drop down menu – to help stop keystroke tracking.
Two good programs that are free that I use are:
House Call: http://housecall.trendmicro.com/
I run them both regularly, as well as keep the Window's security (MS Security Essentials) running at all times. And once you install them – you need to keep them UPDATED so that they have the latest virus definitions. These hackers come up with new things daily.
I am sure that others have more ways to keep safe online as well. But these are important basics. I wanted to remind you to think about things and make sure that you are doing all you can to protect yourself. While many breaches come from the large stores and sites themselves, you still need to do what you can on your own side to minimize your own risk – or discover the problem as early as possible. That is where checking your accounts often comes in handy. In this case – Knowledge really IS Power.
I hope this blog today is helpful to some of you. If anything, I hope it makes you realize that while the banks and online stores have a responsibility to provide a 'safe' environment for their customers, YOU also have a responsibility to protect yourself. We ALL pay for fraud. The more we can do to prevent it, the better. Let's all work together to make our online environment safe!
On one final note, I need to place a call out to my woodworking readers. My friend Kathleen Ryan at Scrollsaw Woodworking and Crafts magazine is looking for individuals and organizations that do woodworking for charitable causes. She is writing an article on it and needs input from giving woodworkers who donate their time and talents to others. She would love to hear about you so she can feature you in her article.
If you are, or know of anyone who helps others through woodworking, please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. She would love to hear your story and feature you in her article. I know there are many generous woodworkers who help others. I think it would be wonderful to see you and your cause get the recognition you deserve.
Well, that is all for today. I hope to have a good day today and have some more fun things to show you tomorrow. I wish you all a wonderful Tuesday.
Be happy and creative!
-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs (http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com) Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"