ID Theft Alert! 5 Tech Gadgets That Thieves Are Using These Days

Handsome Latin business man worried paying bills on couch

Business man worried paying bills on couch | Source: ThinkStock

The problem of identity theft is a serious one. As we have reported on in the past, millions fall victim each year. But as these hackers get more experienced in stealing your identity, they ways they do it become more advanced.

Gone are the days where these thieves used simple means to steal your personal information, such as rummaging through your trash or hacking int data files with your information in it. These days thieves are more sophisticated, even using new tech gadgets created to make stealing your information even easier.

We’re going to take a look at these new gadgets, and what you can do to thwart those who are using them.

1. Skimmers

One of the common ways identity thieves capture data on your debit cards is through a technique called “skimming.” says that a data storage device is attached to an ATM machine, although we’ve heard of similar devices being attached to credit card readers, too. While the transaction itself will still work, at the same time it’s also making a digital copy of your credit card information. recommends that you never leave your ATM or credit card out of your sight. If possible, watch cashiers swipe your card, and don’t be afraid to question or refuse to let them use the card if a machine looks unusual. If you still have concerns, keep a close eye on your statement in the days and weeks afterward. Also, try to make sure most of your cards have the upgraded security chip, which more and more retailers are accepting.

2. RFID Readers

Source: iStock

Credit card with security chip | Source: iStock

Another way these criminals steal your information is through what is called an RFID reader. The tap-to-pay technologies built into some cards use RFID technology to transmit your data. While hackers will need to position the readers very close to you — less than 6 inches away — the transfer of the necessary information only takes seconds. The Daily Mail reports that all that is needed to replicate the card is a $300 machine, and seven in 10 tap-to-pay cards may be at risk.

So how do you keep these digital pickpocketers at bay? The Daily Mail says wrapping your cards in tinfoil, or using foil-lined wallets will reflect the reader’s signal. There are plenty of RFID-blocking wallets and card holders on the market.

3. Laptops

Laptop and credit card

Laptop and credit card | Matt Cardy/Getty Images

Although this one might sound odd, some identity thieves use no more than their own laptops to gain access to your data, Identity Theft Security reveals. A thief drives around a neighborhood and looks for unsecured hotspots. Once it finds one, the thief logs in to your wireless network and then attempts to break into connected devices with other security vulnerabilities.

There’s a very easy fix here: just make sure your computer’s firewall is up and running. Also never leave your home wireless network unsecured. Experts recommend choosing a password that is hard to crack, and enable all security features on the router itself. Also, disable WPS if your router has the feature.

4. Your own old gadgets

broken iPHone

A broken iPhone screen doesn’t mean erased data | Source: iStock

InfoSec brings up another very good point: sometimes your own old gadgets work against you.  When we dispose of our old gadgets — say, when we upgrade our phones — we often forget to make sure our data is erased off the device. While this isn’t as common of a way for identity thieves to gather personal information, it’s an easy target. Some of us store information on those devices to make it easy to recall later, like passwords and PINs.

The best piece of advice? Keep sensitive information off these devices in the first place, InfoSec says, and wipe clean every device before you trade it in or sell it. There’s no telling where or to whom these devices will make it to. Don’t take that chance. Here’s a guide on how to clean data of your device.

5. An internet connection


Source: iStock

It’s not necessarily a gadget, but an internet connection and the USPS website also has proven to be a way in for identity thieves, WalletHub points out. If they already have one of your credit card numbers, concealing their actions is quite easy.

WalletHub notes that the USPS online address change system only requires a credit card in your name to change your address. Once they have your address changed, they can open credit cards and other fraudulent accounts in your name without you ever knowing it.

The best defense? Make sure you use your cards in a wise manner, and shut them off as soon as you lose them. While the Postal Service tries to make it convenient for all of us when we move, it can also be an easy first step to committing identity theft.

Follow Ed on Twitter @edoswald