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10 Ways to Keep Fraudsters From Stealing Your Identity

10 Ways to Keep Fraudsters From Stealing Your Identity

You’re opening your inbox at work when suddenly you get a message from an unknown company. It turns out to be an email from what seems to be a new online shopping store who’s offering great discounts.  On its home page it requires you to sign up asking for your name, credit card number, and password. 

Should you be alarmed? How willing are you to give your private information?

Identity theft is on the rise. The US Bureau of Justice Statistics estimated that there are 15 million American victims of credit card fraud every year. From 2007, malicious software and programs grew from 1 to 130 million in just a span of a few years. These software are also evolving rapidly from what used to be easily scanned and removed viruses, to sophisticated stealth programs that work to monitor computer keystrokes. Costing billions of dollars each year, it is considered one of the fastest growing crimes in America.

What is Identity Theft?

The term identity theft is defined as “the deliberate use of someone else’s identity, usually as a method to gain a financial advantage or obtain credit and other benefits in the other person’s name.”

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These criminals, also called hackers or fraudsters, obtain people’s personal information through various sophisticated and old fashioned methods of stealing — including skimming, phishing, dumpster diving, shoulder surfing, and remote thievery.

The rise of clever hackers with ingenious tech skills is a terrifying problem that could affect everyone’s internet and website security. All forms of devices — your home computers, laptops, and even mobile devices — are vulnerable to identity thieves. So how does one protect their digital presence?

1. Practice Email Safety

Beware of suspicious links and attachments in your email. Some thieves will send victims emails containing links that may appear to be from a legitimate source. However, these links are often directed to a fake site designed especially to collect sensitive data, such as people’s usernames and passwords. Usually, criminals send these emails during holiday seasons alongside promotional emails from other legitimate or popular websites.

2. Create Better Passwords 

How many passwords do you have for every account? If you’re only using one for everything, you might want to change some of them. Experts recommend having different passwords for every website you sign up for. For example, your email password should be different from your Facebook and your PayPal password. Securing your passwords ensures your safety from thieves who acquire information by simply hacking your email and then getting data from all your linked accounts.

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3. Invest in Good Anti-Spyware Programs

Arm your computers with good anti-virus software — and make sure that you update it regularly. Links from scams usually have viruses that can infect your computer and become gateways for hackers to control your device. When choosing a good anti-virus program, it’s always wise to avoid nefarious applications masquerading as free anti-virus software. For safety measures, always choose popular programs trusted by a lot of people.

4.  Be Wary of Phishing Scams

This form of scam is used by fraudsters to get your valuable details and hack your credit cards. Phishing is a way of acquiring personal information by fooling people to subscribing or signing up into a forged website designed to steal personal data. These scams often lure people by offering free services and discounts and sometimes by faking authority to get the person’s trust.

5. Avoid Public Wi-Fi

You might want to think twice before you connect to a public Wi-Fi.  Sometimes, cyber fraudsters will hack and use public Wi-Fi to access private data on their victim’s devices. They can do this easily by using a technique called sniffing that intercepts data packets and enables the user to see everything on a fellow free Wi-Fi user’s device. Sometimes they can also set up rogue accounts and disguise it as public connections for airport, libraries, and other crowded community spots.

6. Review Your Credit Cards

How often do you review your credit records? Once hackers have access to your credit accounts, they will steal small amounts (under 2$) so you won’t notice it at the beginning. During times when you shop more especially during the holiday seasons, hackers will increase the amount of money they’ll steal. Thus, it’s very important to always review your credit records and check your bank immediately if you see even minor suspicious spendings.

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7. Know Where You Shop

When shopping on phone, tablet or computers, make sure that you’re double checking the website you’re on. Hackers often clone shopping sites to do various phishing attacks. A good way to distinguish whether a site is secure or not is by looking at the lock symbol on the left side of the URL tab. It’s also better to shop on popular and trusted websites.

Do not ever reveal personal information to unverified sources over phone or the internet. People have reported many cases of getting phone calls from people claiming to be someone from the bank and asking for their account numbers and PIN. Immediately hang up if this happens and call the direct number of your bank company to ask if they are really associated with this number. This way you can be sure that you are speaking to a real representative and not an impersonator. Know who you are dealing with and be defensive whenever anyone contacts you asking for private identity or financial information.

8. Keep Physical Documents Safe

Invest in home safes. Safes are built for the purpose of keeping your documents and files safe from prying eyes with malicious intent. When throwing away documents that contain sensitive information, it’s best to shred the file to prevent it from getting in the wrong hands. Dumpster diving is a common method of stealing where criminals search the trash for items of use and value.

9. Be Careful of Shoulder Surfers

Shoulder surfers are people who keep watch over your cards whenever you make a transaction in an ATM bank or even online. These thieves will be cloaked as normal people, even wearing suits and looking respectable. They target people in every profession and in the most seemingly safe locations.

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They also use a lot of gadgets like credit card skimmers, tiny cameras, and may even use binoculars to look at your card details from afar. When using ATM, make it a point to shield your keypad to prevent anyone from seeing you when you punch your PIN. When in foreign countries or new places, use machines that are in public and well-lit areas.

10. Protect Your Identity Online

Identity theft protection services are becoming increasingly important. Many companies now offer services that will help you prevent identity theft. You can check out these expert reviews of identity theft protection services to know which services will suit your needs.

 Final Thoughts

Having your identity stolen is no laughing matter. This is an issue that needs to be addressed. The more people are aware of this practice, the more we can fight this crime. For now, the best thing we can do is to take a cautionary approach when giving personal information online or offline. Stay vigilant and protect your identity.

Featured photo credit: Sylwia Bartyzel via unsplash.com

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Last Updated on April 17, 2019

10 Essential Soft Skills That Will Help Advance Your Career

10 Essential Soft Skills That Will Help Advance Your Career

What’s the secret of professional success? Some of it lies in the mastery of your discipline and all the technical skills you have to carry out your job; but a much bigger part lies in the soft skills list you possess.

Soft skills are your people or relationship skills—how well you get along with others and your ability to communicate and collaborate—as well as the personal characteristics you bring to the job, such as optimism, a can-do attitude and the motivation to work hard. These skills are not always easy to point out, but their absence can cause serious problems and negatively affect the whole work atmosphere.

They say that hard skills will help you get the job, but soft skills will help you get along—and get ahead. With that in mind, here’s the top-10 essential soft skills list to help you advance your career.

1. Communication Skills

Communication skills are hands-down the most sought-after soft skill that bosses want, and this one ability covers a lot of ground.

To communicate well, you have to listen carefully, interpret the context of the conversation, express yourself clearly, persuade others of your point of view, check your body language and use an engaging presentation style that won’t intimidate or bore your audience. That’s a big ask!

Your personality traits can influence the way you communicate with others. For instance, some people get straight to the point and center their arguments around facts and logic; others are cooperative and sensitive to how others feel. Both these approaches are equally valuable but there can be misunderstandings if you don’t understand where the other person is coming from.

Taking a comprehensive personality test can help you understand why you communicate the way you do and where your blind spots are. It can also help you understand other communication styles is so you can tailor your communication to the person you’re dealing with.

After all, connecting with your conversation partner is the hallmark of good communication.

2. Flexibility

Change is an essential part of any business. Companies need employees who are flexible enough to work with new initiatives, open to new ideas, and generally are able to tough it out when things don’t go as planned.

Research has found a link between job performance and flexibility over the long term because there will be times when you have to step outside your routine and rise to fresh challenges that didn’t exist before.

Being flexible doesn’t mean you have to hop into a new task or job role like an expert. Rather, it’s about showing you’re willing to accept new responsibility and learn different things.

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Bosses look for people who are prepared to step outside their comfort zones and are open to alternative solutions when their first idea doesn’t work.

3. Being a Team Player

Working on a team can be challenging but learning to do it well can definitely help you get ahead in your career. Employers look for people who can negotiate, cooperate and manage conflicts with other people to achieve a common goal. That includes the ability to build lasting relationships with customers and clients.

What makes a good team player? Essentially, it’s someone who knows the goal and knows her role. Employers look for evidence that you know your strengths, your responsibilities and how you can best contribute to the team, then put those skills into action by sharing ideas and communicating in a respectful manner. That’s the definition of being a good team player.

This is another area where taking a personality test can help you get ahead. When teams work together, each member brings a unique set of skills and qualities to the group. Research has shown that different combinations of personalities affect how teams collaborate and how productive they are.

Knowing who you are, and how you work on a team, can drive new insights and open the door to better teamwork.

4. Positive Mental Attitude

There are plenty of things you can’t change at work, like the people you work with or the fact that the printer is broken again. The one thing you can change is how much you let these things bother you.

Bosses like people who are calm, rational and upbeat—those who diffuse tensions in the workplace, not get all grouchy and go around slamming doors.

Studies show that people who maintain a sunny disposition have better relationships at work, are happier in their jobs and make better decisions than those who whine and complain. Some suggest that a positive mental attitude can also make you live longer—which means it’s beneficial for every area of your life![1]

It’s not always easy to keep a “glass half full” mentality when work is stressful and the deadlines are piling up. But there are some things you can do to help maintain a positive attitude. Laughing at your unfortunate circumstances keeps the work environment positive, and taking “sanity” breaks can help you keep your cool in high-pressure situations.

Managers look for positive mental attitude in a team member that is ready for a promotion, so it really does pay to keep your cool in challenging situations.

5. A Strong Work Ethic

People with a strong work ethic are committed to the role, persevere when things get tough and are inspired by challenge. These people are ambassadors for the organization, and will always be seen as top talent and ideal candidates.

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If you can exhibit this skill, then expect to be seen as a great candidate, eligible for new opportunities and positions throughout your career.

Since a strong work ethic can mean different things to different people, it helps to show specific examples of your exceptional work ethic during a performance appraisal or interview. For instance, you might talk about:

  • A time when you persisted in the face of challenges and did not shy away from hard work.
  • How you volunteered to help with projects even though these tasks did not form part of your job description.
  • The networking, workplace learning and skills betterment you’ve undertaken, which shows ambition and drive (people with a strong work ethic have those qualities in spades).
  • How you own your mistakes and never, ever point the finger of blame at others.

For help with building a strong work ethic, check out these tips: How to Build a Reliable Work Ethic

6. Public Speaking

Who’s terrified of public speaking? Pretty much everyone, since public speaking is America’s number one fear, ahead of death at number five and loneliness at number seven.

Yet, according to Warren Buffett, mastering this one skill you could increase your personal value by 50 percent.[2] That’s huge!

If you’re not natural at public speaking, you’re in good company. Buffett had to work hard to overcome his stage fright and once dropped out of a public-speaking course before it started—because he was afraid of public speaking! He eventually realized that he needed to build up his confidence by just doing it; over and over in front of small groups.

For a more structured approach, Toastmasters International teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a variety of pathways. Membership of this non-profit looks good on your resume but the real payoff will come when you can put your newfound skills to use on the job or in the interview room.

Or, you can check out this advice: The Ultimate Public Speaking Tips to Hook and Impress Any Audience

7. Integrity

From a manager’s point of view, the two integrity skills that will set you apart are:

  • Always doing what you say you will do
  • Owning an error instead of minimizing or hiding it

…even when no one is around to check up on you.

There are lots of people who have climbed the ladder without scruples, but they are not the people who others trust, respect and support when promotion time comes around.

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Behaving with integrity is a safe and consistent way to enhance your reputation and achieve your professional goals.

8. Managing Your Time

Phone calls, texts, Slack pings, meetings, huddles, side projects, multitasking—we are busier today than any generation before us. There’s no denying the workplace is an incredibly distracting place to be.

A lot of us have traded effectiveness for busyness which we wear as a badge of honor, both as a proxy for productivity and to show our value to the company. But what bosses want, what they really, really want, is someone who actually gets stuff done on time.

Time management is not merely the art of being on time, but of managing your time so you focus on the projects that really matter and add value to the business. This means prioritizing well, sticking to schedules, delegating, and not getting distracted by tasks that are easier to perform or less important. It means planning ahead and learning when it’s appropriate to say no.

Time management can be a tough skill to maintain, but not a difficult one to pick up. Monitor your actions for a few days—how long do your tasks take to finish? What’s interrupting you? What causes you to lose focus? Once you have the answers to these questions, you can set a schedule for yourself to make sure you’re spending your time wisely and this valuable asset is never wasted.

These 20 Quick Time Management Tips to Super Boost Your Productivity are also great to try.

9. Assertiveness

In any workplace, you typically will find people with the following conflict styles:

  • Passive: Those who go out of their way to avoid conflict.
  • Passive-aggressive: Those who express their negative feelings through actions rather than words.
  • Aggressive: Those who respond to conflict in a hostile and rude manner. These people get their opinion heard but they won’t make any friends in the process.
  • Assertive: People who stick up for their rights while still respecting the rights of others.

Managers look for assertiveness above all other styles because it allows decisions to be made without conflict or alienating people.

How do you use this information for yourself?

It starts with understanding your personality so you can anticipate how you will react when conflict arises and address your own shortcomings. Then, you can start influencing the team for top results, and securing your own career advancement in the process.

Learn how to be assertive and gain respect:

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How to Be Assertive and Stand up for Yourself the Smart Way

10. Creative Thinking

LinkedIn recently analyzed over 50,000 skills that employers search for when looking for candidates to find out what skills are currently in demand.[3] Taking the number-one slot on the 2019 soft skills list was creativity: the ability to solve problems and think outside the box.

Creativity is about bringing fresh, and sometimes unorthodox, ideas to the table. This helps companies to innovate, and companies that do not innovate will not survive very long.

How do you showcase your creative thinking skills? The golden rule is to participate.

Be brave and share your ideas during group brainstorming sessions. Volunteer to run a society, networking event or recruitment drive. Ask “what if” questions: “What if we add this information to the client welcome pack?” “What if we eliminate step 3 from the process?”

These activities demonstrate that you’re prepared to go beyond “business as usual” towards creative problem solving—an ability that will serve you every day, all throughout your career.

You can learn to unleash your creativity power:

What Is Creativity? We All Have It, and Need It

Final Thoughts

The good news? Every item on this soft skills list can be learned. Although you may feel lacking in certain areas, taking an inventory of your strengths and weaknesses will allow you to focus in on the areas that you’ll benefit from developing.

So take an inventory of your personality, skills, and talents. This will give you a baseline for your communication style, attitude to change, conscientiousness and more. You can then identify your weak areas and develop strategies for improving your team-building, assertiveness and conflict skills.

The better news? The effort is worth it. Developing your soft skills opens the door to a new job or a promotion, and helps you succeed once you get there.

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Featured photo credit: Rachael Gorjestani via unsplash.com

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