It happened so quickly I almost didn't notice it: I was doing a quick scan of my on-line accounts and decided to check and see if an on-line payment to my credit card had cleared, as it usually takes two or three days for the transaction to register. I knew that the last charge I'd made was for about 30 euro when I filled up my car. Imagine my surprise when I noticed that I had a new transaction listed: $1600 dollars charged to a boutique in France! How did that happen? Especially when I live in Italy! How did someone access my information personal and make a purchase on my credit card?
I felt raped. I'd just been screwed to the tune of $1600 dollars and I hadn't even removed my pants. I had just gained entranced to a not-so-privileged club. One where an estimated 10 million men and women all over the world relinquish control of their personal financial information and pay the price for it. I was lucky, as my bank protects me against fraud. So my bank assumes responsibility for false transactions of this nature, and the money comes out of their pockets and not mine. I'm not so sure everyone else is so fortunate. Personal information security is the only way to ensure that this doesn't happen again.
This shocking experience led me to the FTC. The Federal Trade Commission spends a good portion of its annual budget maintaining a website that informs people how to protect their personal financial information. The Site also provides tips regarding personal information security. The FTC's website doles out quite a bit of advice, but I found the most useful to be this: Stop, Think, Click.
It's basically common sense. Using the internet is so easy; you can compromise your information personal without even realizing it. I tried to recall any recent on-line purchasing activity or any other action where I had to provide information personal. Unfortunately the list I came up with was impressive for all the wrong reasons. While I generally don't buy much on-line, I do subscribe to a number of on-line magazines and other forums where I have to give up information personal. But nothing in recent memory involved my credit card.
The worst part is, you can do as much as you can to protect your information personal and it still doesn't guarantee you'll be safe. You can put up firewalls, use special passwords, update for viruses, but once your information is circulating on the internet, you're like the fresh piece of meet being tossed to the sharks. Not a happy predicament, but that's the reality of the situation.
So now what? I have to wean myself off the internet? I feel I am a pretty responsible when it comes to using the World Wide Web. But I posted the FTC's advice on my computer. Stop, Think, Click. No more on-line forums for me. No more e-magazines. Forget about E-bay. In retrospect, that's probably where this problem may have started! And while I'm at it, I'm going to get rid of my cell phone, make my phone number unlisted and change my identity as well. As a fail safe, I think my wife, daughter and I will also wrap ourselves up in tin foil as a method to deflect harmful ultraviolet or radio waves.
When it comes to protecting my information personal, I might as well feel real safe, right...?