Protect Yourself from Shoulder Surfing and Identity Theft

Shoulder surfing is not the new way to catch a wave in the ocean.  It is one of the many ways criminals obtain the information they need to steal your identity!  So what is shoulder surfing?

Think back to your classroom days when you caught your desk neighbor peaking over your shoulder.  That is shoulder surfing.  Some will say that is innocent, and it might be.  The kind of shoulder surfing that we are focusing on is not.  Here is a prime example.  You are in line at the ATM and there is a person behind you or next to you hawking your transaction.  This can also happen at a store while making a purchase with your debit card and using a PIN.  This is how they get your PIN but they can also get your card number in a similar fashion.  Some people take out their card and set it down on the counter, which gives the thief a prime opportunity to get the numbers off the front.

There are many ways to shoulder surf for information and thankfully, there are strategies to prevent it from happening to you.

  • Avoid long lines or busy areas – Areas with more people in line or more bystanders also have more prying eyes.  By avoiding these areas, you reduce the number of people that have the opportunity to shoulder surf.
  • Block your data – When using a PIN pad always shield the number pad to prevent someone from stealing your PIN.  The same advice goes for your card, which you should leave in your wallet or purse until you need it and then replace it as soon as you are done using it.  Always dispose of your receipts properly by shredding; never throw them into a public trashcan.
  • Signature Based Transactions – Using your debit card, as credit results in a signature transaction that assures your PIN cannot be stolen.  This also works for those of you using rewards checking!

During prime shopping seasons, shoulder surfers are much more common as they find it easier to hide in the crowds, along with pickpockets, so be extra cautious.  The number one way to prevent a shoulder surfer is by realizing they are out there and you should actively try to protect yourself.  They are always looking for an easy target so if you make yourself just a little more difficult to take advantage of the thief will move on to someone else.

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