Did you know that the baby monitors we have in our homes are used by identity thieves to get your identity information? That is right! Also I was surprised to hear a conversation from a cell phone or maybe it was a cordless phone, I don’t know, on my son’s new walkie talkie toy as well.
Think about it a for a minute; they all work on radio waves, and with a little knowledge of how a radio works, a thief can listen in on your conversation with your bank, credit card companies or other financial institutions.
After that incident of overhearing the conversation on my son’s toy, I started looking into this problem. I am amazed at how easy it is to get passwords, Social Security numbers, addresses and even birthdays from just about anyone I wanted. Another fact is that this all happened in a few days, not weeks or months like I thought.
It all started as a low-tech way to steal high-tech information and it is called “shoulder surfing”. This is the act of a thief watching or listening as you key your credit card number or password into a keypad or give your account number over the phone to an operator. It can happen just about anywhere, most of the time it happens in a public location such as a hotel lobby, shopping mall or a crowded office. The thief can literally look over your shoulder as you enter your PIN, credit card number and the security number on the back of your card into your cell phone, or ATM.
Remember the old phone cards we had to use? It was a cry better then having a pocket full of change just to call home. In the past, the “shoulder surfing” was mostly involving someone observing a person enter their calling card number into a pay phone, then using that number to call their family and friends. Well now it has taken a different approach; the thief will listen in while you order a pair of khakis over your wireless phone, cell phone or a public office phone and hear you give the operator your credit card number and the number on the back of your card as well. All this thief needs is a baby monitor or a child’s walkie talkie or some other cheap radio listening device, and they have everything they need; your identity information.
The rise in the number of “shoulder surfing” thefts has come about mostly because we as consumers have become careless and distracted. One of the simplest ways to avoid this low-tech “shoulder suffering” is to be aware of and be alert to who is around you when accessing the ATM or punching in a PIN number.
I want to tell you to shield the keypad with your body or place your hand over any paper work that has sensitive information on it. And please do not order goods and services over a cell phone in a public place. Why? Because that cordless phone conversation from your home or office can be picked up by baby monitors and toys.