Yesterday’s horrible news of the tremendous loss of life as a result of the actions of deranged gunman Adam Lanza killing adults and children at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut is, unfortunately, just the type of story that often leads to people becoming victims of identity theft. As some people search for information to help them better understand what happened while others scour media for exclusive photographs or videos of the events out of a macabre curiosity, both groups of people can become easy victims of identity theft schemes quickly constructed by media savvy identity thieves who will use all forms of media from text messages, emails, social media postings and search engine directed phony websites to entice people to click on links contained within these various forms of communication that will purport to provide information, photographs or videos about the shootings, but instead will only result in the people who click on these links unknowingly downloading dangerous keystroke logging malware that can read all of the information contained on the computers of those people clicking on the tainted links. The information stolen in this manner can include passwords, Social Security numbers, credit card numbers, bank account numbers and other information that will lead to the identity theft of these people.
First and foremost, it is important to have good firewalls and security software installed and kept up to date on all of your electronic devices including your computers, smart phones, iPads and other portable devices that you use. Many people may think to protect their home computers, but fail to protect their portable devices even though they may use these devices as much and even more than their home computers. Second, you should not click on any link unless you are sure that it is legitimate and even if the link is contained in what appears to be a text message or social media posting of a friend, you can’t be sure that your friend has not had his or her account hacked into by an identity thief in order to make you more trusting than you should be of the message being sent. Additionally, even if you receive a test, email or social media posting that actually is from a friend of yours, it may merely be passing on to you a tainted link that your friend does not realize they are helping to spread after receiving it themselves from a source that they should not have trusted. Frankly, the safest course of action is not to click on any links from anyone that try to appeal to your curiosity about major public events such as this, but rather limit your search for information to legitimate news websites that you can be confident are not likely to contain tainted or inaccurate information. As for those people who lust after disturbing videos and photographs that they think they will only be able to access from “special” sources, those special sources are usually phony as are the videos and photographs that they provide, however, the malware that you get from them is very real and dangerous.