What Is Shoulder Surfing?

Shoulder surfing may leave you in financial ruin.

What exactly is shoulder surfing? Shoulder surfing happens when someone looks over your shoulder while you enter sensitive information into an electronic device, such as your password, ATM PIN, or credit card number. Identity theft occurs when a spy exploits your information for financial advantage.

This article will teach you how shoulder surfers steal information. You will also be given advice on how to avoid being a victim.

Shoulder Surfing Examples

It’s late in the day on a Friday. Only a lengthy wait at the bank’s ATM separates you from the weekend. You have to be patient. And then there’s this. The time has come for you to take the lead role. Your bus home is almost around the corner, so you quickly enter your PIN number. You press the “Fast $200” key on your keyboard, grab your money, and dash to the bus stop. It’s all done! You discover later that your bank account has been compromised and that an additional $600 has been taken from it.

That individual in line behind you—you probably didn’t notice whether he or she was a guy or a woman—just happened to be a shoulder surfer. As you raced for the bus, your ATM displayed a message that said, “Would you want to make another transaction?”

What transpired? The next person in line pressed the “yes” key, entered your PIN number, and took your money.

Shoulder surfing is a common occurrence. It often occurs when you are preoccupied or in a hurry. There’s a high probability you’re in a busy, public area.

That’s not all. A thief doing this low-tech crime may not even need to look behind you. Binoculars, a mobile phone video camera, or simply a sharp ear may help you penetrate your financial situation.

Three Shoulder Surfer Opportunities

  1. You’ve arrived at the airport and are sitting in a crowded terminal, awaiting your flight. Your child calls to inquire about an item she wishes to purchase online. You made a mistake by reading your credit card number to her out loud.
  2. You go to a café to have a cup of coffee and pay your debts. You sit at a table with a friend, open your laptop, and start typing. You log in to your bank using your user name and password and then choose Bill Pay. You made a mistake by putting important information in plain sight.
  3. Your first day at work has arrived. You enter a sea of cubicles. You start working on your “paperwork,” signing up for employee perks on your computer. You provide your name, address, Social Security number, bank account number, and phone number, among other things. Mistake: A half-dozen colleagues are able to observe what you’re doing.

What Are the Risks of Shoulder Surfing?

Using your credit card information to make fraudulent transactions is only one example of the harm that shoulder surfers may do. The more personal information a criminal obtains about you, the more severe the repercussions for your bank account and financial health may be.

One or two fraudulent transactions may be immediately identified and simply rectified by giving you a new credit card. However, if the scam is not detected immediately, it may have serious long-term consequences on your credit report. Shoulder surfers may also sell your info on the dark web.

Shoulder surfing, on the other hand, may put your identity at risk. A criminal may use your personal information, such as your Social Security number, to establish new credit accounts, apply for loans, rent apartments, or apply for employment in your name. An identity thief may get your tax return, utilize your health insurance to obtain medical treatment, or apply for government benefits in your name. They may even commit a crime and provide police your personal information when questioned, leaving you with a criminal record or an arrest warrant.

Identity theft may take months or years to resolve, forcing you to make many phone calls, take time off from work, and pay for services or reports required to recover your identity. The financial and emotional costs may be enormous, and your credit score may suffer as a result. A credit history marred by fraud and identity theft may make it difficult to rent an apartment, purchase a house, finance a new vehicle, or even find work.

7 ways to avoid shoulder surfing

Shoulder surfers scour the edges of your personal space. Their aim is to be recognized while remaining unnoticed. Here’s how you may assist in thwarting them:

  • Keep an eye on your surroundings. Keep an eye out for individuals and recording devices.
  • If you’re in a public area and inputting personal or financial information into your computer or smartphone, sit with your back to the wall. If you do financial transactions via Wi-Fi, use a VPN.
  • When entering your PIN, cover the ATM’s keyboard.
  • Check that your ATM transaction is complete, and then collect your receipt.
  • Choose strong passwords so that no one can guess what you entered.
  • On PCs, use a screen protector to hide your displays.
  • When you leave your workstation at work, lock your computer screen.
  • When you need to discuss financial information over the phone, choose a discreet location.

By developing wise practices, you may assist to avoid shoulder surfing, which can result in financial loss. If you are the victim, shoulder surfing is a hazardous sport. We have more insightful articles if you are interested in learning about other techniques to protect yourself from shoulder surfing, identity theft, and more.

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