In this digital age, online shopping isn’t the only way hackers can access your personal information. From a gas fill-up to your key fob, technology offers new opportunities for thieves to steal your identity—and even your car.
Here are three car identity theft vulnerabilities, plus tips on how to protect yourself.
1. Skimming something off the top
Criminals use skimmers on card readers at gas station pumps to steal consumers’ credit and debit card information. These devices are overlaid on the legitimate card scanner, collecting your card’s information while allowing the purchase to go through. Here’s how to protect yourself from identity theft via skimming:
- Use a pump in sight of the cashier. Skimmers are often placed on the pumps farthest from the storefront.
- Inspect the card reader at the pump. If it looks like it’s been opened or its security tape has been broken, inform the cashier and don’t use that pump.
- Pay for your gas inside the store.
- Use cash instead of your credit card.
2. Your car is your biggest computer
The average car today runs software containing more than 100 million lines of computer code—in some cases, even more than a commercial jet. And vehicles are only getting more advanced, as the Insurance Information Institute estimates that connected cars will make up 65% of new car sales in 2020. As infotainment systems become smarter, the information at risk in your car will extend into your smartphone. Here’s how to help keep hackers at bay:
- Keep your car’s software up to date.
- Use caution when modifying your vehicle’s software.
- Be selective about connecting to third-party devices.
- Note who has physical access to your car.
3. Keyless entry opens doors to thieves
Keyless entry is a convenient feature on many new cars, but it can provide more access than you intend. Employing a tactic known as a relay hack, some thieves use devices to amplify your smart fob’s signal. So, although the fob is designed to open or start your car only when near the vehicle, the relay hack boosts the signal. Then, even if your key is across the parking lot or inside your home, the car thinks it’s nearby, allowing the thief to unlock the door or even start the engine. Here’s how you can protect your car and your belongings:
- Avoid leaving valuables in your car. If you must, hide them in a locked glove box or the trunk.
- Park in a closed garage whenever possible.
- Store your key fobs in a metal container or a metal-lined RFID sleeve or Faraday bag to prevent radio signals from transmitting to or from them.