Last time, we talked about Facebook — not to warn about how bad Facebook is, but to highlight that we’re our own weakest link in our cybersecurity. People can fake who they are online. We’re not there with them to see that the picture of them doesn’t match who they really are. Or that online picture of a really nice house is actually a tiny dwelling, possibly in some third world area. The scammer has studied and worked hard at being able to say what he/she thinks will get us to pop open our wallets.
There are two other big online areas where we need vigilance. Like Facebook, both require our attention. There’s Google+, where pretty much the same things apply to dealing with spam and scam as Facebook. Except Google+ includes an easily accessible reporting tool. Accounts can be fully banned, where more is left up to us as individual users on Facebook. And there’s email. Every email provider has a way to mark emails as spam or junk. And, if we look for it, ways of reporting the sender. Wherever it is, we do have ways of handling it — if we pay attention.
I’ve talked about paying attention to how the person uses English. There seems to be a misconception among scammers that all Americans have well filled wallets. As a result, English is the language most often used. But that doesn’t necessarily have to be the case. Scammers will go after whoever they think they can get money from. It might be someone who looks like a Russian industrialist or a Japanese financier, as easily as anyone else.
Scammers will try to look like someone who speaks the language they’re using either as a native or as someone used to communicating proficiently in it as a second language. In either case, the expectation is close to sounding fully educated in the language. And there will be clues that this isn’t really a native speaker or someone educated enough to be a lawyer, executive, or government official.
We’ve talked enough about long distance privacy invasion. What about those near us? People looking over our shoulder or scanning our wallet, phone or tablet is a very real possibility. And there are things we can do to deal with that.
My circumstances are changing to where I’m going to be using airports in several locales a lot more than I have in the past. There are several security and privacy downsides to that change in lifestryle. The first of those is low tech. Or, more precisely, no tech.
One of the oldest “professions” in the world is that of the pickpocket. And because their skill set goes unnoticed longer where there are crowds and people jostling each other, they like places like malls, airports, jammed elevators, crowded escalators, and other such venues. And the most vulnerable item is a wallet or card case in a back hip pocket, or a business or pocketbook bag with a strap that’s not reinforced to prevent cut, grab, and run tactics. Hunting for solutions to either can be helped by a Google search. But let’s get to the one I actually dealt with personally — the wallet.
One of the recent entries in my Google Now screen took me to a post that made a statement that there were over 900 wallet projects on Kickstarter. That caught my attention. I found that many had added security features ranging from the bizarre to just that they’re slim enough to comfortably go in a front pocket. Some are just plain wallets (sometimes with luxury materials or features), while others include RFID protection, which we’ll get to. And, just for your own info, the term “wallet” on a Kickstarter search will get over 1,000 entries.
If you’re a writer or just have a little time to research, it can be fun looking at all the possibilities. I ended up ordering a wallet from Threads. It was one of the slim wallets that could fit in a front pocket without drawing attention to itself and holds 2-12 credit cards and cash. Part of what drew me to theirs was the price. They’re inexpensive and they look pretty cool. The wallets with decent security/privacy features are mostly $40 or above, quite a few well above. So, I opted for thin. And self added privacy protection. Remember, I also write the Tech Miser series. Since the wallet is in transit, I haven’t used it yet, so I can’t say how well it’ll hold up. You can be sure I’ll tell you about that in one of my Tech Miser pieces after I’ve used it for awhile.
A lot of the Kickstarter wallet projects include RFID scan protection. More and more credit and debit cards are including an RFID chip. With the right equipment, a thief doesn’t need to dig into your pocket. He/she can just electronically scan the information from your cards. The scanner is often hidden in a bag and just needs to be close to your cards. More sophisticated equipment can grab all that info from a distance from multiple people.
There’s an easy solution — block the scan with foil. But that looks pretty cheesy. As I said, there are lots of wallets that include RFID protection. I actually have both a passport case and a wallet I bought from Amazon, both with RFID protection. But the wallet is also a typical leather wallet. Bulky enough that I either need to travel in cargo pants or keep it in my back pocket. And we’ve talked about wallets in back pockets.
With an unprotected wallet, there are cards that can be purchased and placed in your wallet to protect credit card scans. If my new wallet shows promise, then we’ll add that for scanning protection and report on both in a future Tech Miser column. But the next time in this series, we’ll be talking about protecting your phone or tablet from handing someone your info.
What do you use to protect what’s in your pocket? Let us know in the comments below, or on Google+, Twitter, or Facebook!