You lock your doors. Security cameras ring your house. And then you post pictures of your vaccination cards on Facebook after you get your injection. We regard our vaccinations as an achievement and an encouragement for others to get their shots. Identity thieves are not gonna miss their shot at mining your data.
Let’s be real. The information on most vaccination cards is minimal: your name and your date of birth. Both pieces of information are likely known to many people and organizations who interact with you, and it’s all readily available on public information websites. We won’t get into how many of you don’t make your year of birth available on Facebook for “privacy” reasons. But you do appreciate birthday greetings.
That said, let’s get back to the vaccination cards. I fall into two groups: 1c for my age and 1b for health reasons. If an ID thief is looking for some way to carry out medical fraud, my info is right there. Looking at my age and 1b status, the thief has the makings of a target. The name and date of birth on an official document validates who you are.
The thief can find my home address. Again, it’s public information, but when it’s added to my “dossier,” it’s another piece of a puzzle. I know I have added more clues about me when I shared some of my hospital visits. By and of themselves, each piece is small, but a thief may have enough to start looking at things just to let me know that they know me.
Then comes the phishing email disguised as an offer about some kind of insurance. If I bite by clicking on a link or opening an attachment, the thief can plant some malware to get a lot more information by mining my data. They might even get into my medical records and have enough info to file a false claim for treatment I never had. They might also lock me out of my records by changing all my login credentials and using HIPPA regulations. In short, I can wind up on the hook to pay for treatment I never had, and I can’t get info about the bill.
It’s one scenario about how big data can be mined – legally and illegally – from one small piece.
You can be vulnerable in other ways.
Let’s say you take a car trip somewhere, and you post a picture that includes your car and shows its license plate number. If your car is desirable, a thief can use your license plate number to trace your address – or maybe start observing you. When you leave the car somewhere, such as in a supermarket parking lot, it’s easy enough to get the VIN number through the windshield and then take steps to retitle your car before stealing it and selling it “legitimately.”
Big data makes these examples possible. There’s a lot more out there all the time, and hackers are more sophisticated. Better software tools allow more thieves to gather and analyze data to pinpoint a target and let them commit a larger number of small crimes that add up to decent money.
Our advice is simple: Don’t put any more of your data out there than is absolutely necessary. Be careful about what you photograph and post. Be careful about how you handle email and about the info you provide – even to legitimate businesses and organizations – by email or telephone. Even with those you know, question why they need certain information, such as your Social Security Number. Use common sense.
You can augment your common sense by keeping all your operating system and application software up to date; updates usually include security patches and bug fixes. Install, properly configure and update anti-virus and malware protection software. We can help you install and maintain software. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to set up an appointment.
Oh, and one more thing: Get your COVID vaccination as soon as you can!