Tracking and Hacking | |

Tracking and hacking! Two powerful methods employed by criminals to make your life miserable. Tracking uses technology to stalk and harass victims. The technology uses tracking tools that track your movements and can make your home vulnerable to break-ins.

Tracking can involve hardware that uses radio signals, or software on devices, which can pinpoint your location from Wi-Fi signals on your cell phone and home router. The most popular tracking device is an Apple Air Tag, a small disc that emits a trackable signal. It comes in handy when you attach it to your keyring and is unbeatable for keeping track of your suitcase on the go. Given its small size, it can go unnoticed when dropped in a pocket, purse, briefcase or attached to a car. The benefit is obvious if you habitually misplace things. But, when used by a stalker or a criminal, it can track your every move. When used to leak your location, your unoccupied home can be set up for theft in your absence. Air beacons have also been used to steal cars, track and abduct children, and carry out human trafficking activities.

Detection is easy with an Apple device: MacBook, iPad or iPhone. Your device can lead you to the beacon. For Android users, there is a downloadable app, but there is a catch. It does not send automatic alerts, so you should run periodic scans.

Your cell phone can be a tracking device. Phones are usually configured to connect to home Wi-Fi network routers. If it is not connected to your router, the phone will search for it and the router will search for the phone. Criminals with the right software can read signals from your phone and identify your home network, ultimately locating you. Some safeguards: change the router name at least once a year, replace it with a common name (state, county, sports team) and add “_NOMAP” to the name (eg Celtics#1_NOMAP) to let editors know mapping software you don’t want to be tracked.

Hacking is an entirely different matter. Hackers use computer skills to carry out cyberattacks on institutional, corporate, or government databases. They steal, then use or sell your private personal information (PII) such as credit card information, social security number, date of birth, medical records or general personal information.

Simply put, hacking happens when someone is able to gain access to a cyber device or network. Everyone has probably heard of the 2017 data breach at the Equifax credit bureau. A criminal was able to break into (hack into) the company’s database containing the records of 143 million Americans. In addition to these large-scale attacks, criminals manage to steal PII directly from individuals by accessing the data directly from personal devices.

Stopping identity theft is impossible, but you can protect yourself against loss. Start by contacting the 3 major credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion, to

activate the credit freeze. The freezes are free and make it nearly impossible for a criminal with your credentials to open accounts, get loans, or get credit cards in your name. Second, get and review your free credit reports. All three reports can be ordered online from or by calling (877) 322-8228 This government-sponsored service does not attempt to sell you unwanted services. Be prepared to provide your social security number and answer specific, personal questions about your credit history. Check the reports for errors and if you find any, request that they be corrected.

Here are some additional personal action tips: 1) Register and use mobile payment systems (Apple Pay, Google Pay). Mobile payment systems are secure and avoid the use of physical credit cards. Be sure to enable biometric signatures (retinal scan or fingerprint); 2) As recommended in the past, where possible, configure Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA). Access to an account or a website cannot be done without entering answers to security questions or a special password sent by SMS or e-mail.

Finally, you can find additional guidance and assistance from the Federal Trade Commission at

Tracking and hacker protection takes some effort, but the alternative may be a risk you don’t want to take.

Elliott Greenblott is a retired educator and coordinator of the AARP Vermont Fraud Watch Network. Questions, concerns? Contact [email protected]

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