Over the past few months we have seen the confidential user information of Facebook, Twitter, Target, hotel chains, even the government itself hacked and used by “bad actors” to steal, defraud and extort. Let’s hope it doesn’t happened to you, but it happened to me.
I was at an airport recently and needed to work a bit on my computer back in the office. I logged on to what appeared to be the Orlando Airport wi-fi signal. I gained access to the office computer and did my work. It took about 20 minutes. You have to love technology when it works as it should. From 500 miles away, I was able to get work done as if I was in the office.
That night, as I slept, my phone buzzed letting me know that a transaction on my American Express account was authorized. It woke me up. I usually don’t make Amex transactions at midnight. So, I looked and found exactly $400 was charged to the card from Amazon. I woke up all the way and went in to the office to investigate. Apparently, “I” had purchased a gift card for $400 and used it immediately on a different account.
Frantically, I called American Express and told them that I had not authorized the transaction. They were very professional about it, cancelled the card and issued a new one. I received it the next day via courier.
I thought everything was taken care of, but I had another scare coming. After the phone conversation with the service rep at Amex, I looked at my computer screen and noticed that someone was logged on to my computer, just as I had done in the Orlando Airport. Then the freakiest thing happened as I watched in horror as the pointer on the screen started moving by itself and started to make another purchase on Amazon. I had been hacked!
The only thing I could think to do was turn off the computer, jerking out the power cable like a poisonous snake. Then I disconnected the network cable and started it up again. This time I changed the password to my computer so that the bad guys in Macedonia couldn’t get to it again.
But I was still worried they might be able to get access to other sites and services so I began the painstaking process of changing all my passwords. This time I did it a bit smarter, changing each password to something completely different with each site having a different password and writing the resulting passwords down on a legal pad. If someone broke in to the office they might find those passwords but I cleverly put them in the file cabinet labeled “Old Family Photos.”
This experience taught me some lessons I won’t soon forget:
1. Have different passwords for each site. (I know that’s a pain but so is trying to recover your identity when stolen.)
2. Actively protect your identity.
3. Don’t access private information from a public wi-fi. (Either wait until you are at home, or use the data plan from your phone.)
Now, what does that have to do with Free Paper Month that we celebrate in July? Well, your Facebook account most likely has been stolen. Your Twitter information can be viewed by the people entrusted with protecting it. Hotel chains have been hacked, exposing your name, address, birthdate, your credit card information and even more sensitive information. But your personal information is always protected here at Oyster Pointer. You’ll get the most important local information, news, photos and ads without fear of what criminals will do as you read.
No one has ever stolen your identity by reading Oyster Pointer. No one has ever hacked into your personal information at home because you have a copy of Oyster Pointer on the coffee table or in your office waiting room. Your information is protected, guarded and safe. You have a choice: get “fake news” on Twitter or Facebook and maybe have your personal information exposed or get the real news by enjoying Oyster Pointer and sleep without worry of exposure. I know which I’ll choose.
Douglas Fry is executive director of state, regional and national community paper associations: Texas Community Newspaper Association, the Southeastern Advertising Publishers Association and Independent Free Papers of America. He can be reached at 931-223-5708 or firstname.lastname@example.org.