Shoulder Surfing

Shoulder Surfing

What is shoulder surfing? Learn about this form of low-tech ID theft and how to avoid it.

Most info-harvesting scams require some amount of trickery or technical knowledge. Shoulder surfing, however, involves an identity thief snooping around a consumer’s personal space in search of sensitive information to.

So, what is shoulder surfing? Think of it as the Digital Age equivalent of having your pocket picked. Instead of quick hands, a thief needs nothing more than a sharp eye and a decent memory, or a smart phone.

Protect yourself

Despite the growing presence of online shopping, identity theft is still an issue at plenty of brick-and-mortar retailers. To protect you, many establishments have installed hooded PIN pads and ATMs. Additionally, more advanced card readers are viewable only at close range. Beyond a certain distance, numbers and keystrokes become blurred and indecipherable.

Some banks no longer allow customers to use smart phones inside their establishments. Smart phones can be used to record a customer reading their information aloud to an employee, or to capture video surveillance of a victim entering his or her pin number.

When you’re working on your personal computer in a public space, it’s important to account for snooping eyes. Be mindful of how you position yourself, and how easy it is to see your screen. Additionally, use your hand to shield your keyboard or number pad anytime you’re entering sensitive information such as your usernames, passwords or credit card numbers.

Extreme tactics

The most dedicated shoulder surfers have been known to steal PIN numbers and identity information from long distances. Some professional thieves have been known to perch in tall buildings or on top of hills and use binoculars to spy on ATMs. This way, they can view personal details at long range without getting close to their victims. Still, the easiest way to defend yourself is by using one hand to block the view of your private information as you key it in with the other hand.

Whether it’s shoulder surfing or dumpster diving, identity theft often comes in stranger forms than you’d expect. Always be careful during moments when your personal information is out in the open, and do what you can to protect your identity both online and offline.