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As North Carolinians Resume Travel, Experts Urge Protecting Sensitive Info

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Monday, July 26, 2021   

RALEIGH, N.C. -- As more North Carolinians resume travel and take vacations this summer, most will be relying on their debit and credit cards, and smartphones, and experts say fraudulent activity from financial data aggregation services such as PayPal and Venmo are a growing concern.

Joe Mecca, vice president for communication at Coastal Credit Union, said criminals can steal login credentials from less secure websites, and then attempt to use them to hack into other accounts or obtain bank information.

"Fraudsters are getting more and more sophisticated in how they target people," Mecca outlined. "They're getting a combination of publicly available information, as well as information that may have been stolen from different data breaches, and they start to cobble that all together to create profiles. "

Mecca advised never using the same password on multiple websites, and emphasized a strong, unique password is your first line of defense.

According to a report from Safety.com, North Carolina ranks fifteenth in the nation for the frequency of cybercrime, with losses estimated at more than $48 million.

Mecca added sharing seemingly harmless information on Facebook such as your first car, favorite pet or second-grade teacher's name may reveal common security question answers.

"What they don't realize is your friends who went to school with you that you're connected with on Facebook that a fraudster can see, might be using that information, or your family members might be using that information," Mecca explained.

Jonathon Striley, vice president for information security at Coastal Credit Union, recommended just like getting your vehicle's oil changed every few months, take the time to regularly update your computer, change your passwords and delete old accounts.

"Security is going to continue to be a major threat, unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on how you look at it," Striley asserted. "Now everything that we do is entirely dependent on computers. Therefore, our security and our well-being is dependent on keeping them safe."

Losses from identity-theft cases increased 42% to more than $700 billion last year, according to the Insurance Information Institute. Experts say the spike was fueled by the high rate of unemployment identity theft during the pandemic, as increased and extended unemployment benefits became a magnet for fraudsters.

Disclosure: Coastal Credit Union contributes to our fund for reporting on Community Issues and Volunteering, Education, Livable Wages/Working Families, and Philanthropy. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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