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Never do this during a Zoom call

Zoom often gives coworkers a look into our home they would not normally see, but be aware: Fraudsters are looking in on your video calls to advance their schemes.

SAN ANTONIO — The new conference room looks a lot homier.

“There are not a lot of people who are not lucky enough to have a private area in their home dedicated to work, and they’re using a lot of shared spaces – kitchens, living rooms, bedrooms – as their place to do these video conferences,” said Mat Newfield, chief security infrastructure officer for global IT company Unisys.

He said he sees a lot people oversharing personal information during video calls. It is not what they say but what he sees.

“People aren't turning around and looking behind them to see what's there," Newfield said. "I don’t know what your refrigerator is like, but I can tell you, mine has got bills, it’s got letters and it’s got a very nice, well-written piece of paper with important phone numbers and names on it just sitting right there."

It might even be something you think is safe to show. But almost any item can be a source of information for a schemer.

“It is so easy for a fraudster to just pick up little tidbits of information based on your background,” said Michael Skiba, who is also known as Dr. Fraud. “It’s very common to even see college diplomas in the background; just from that alone, you can grab someone’s full name. You can see when they graduated and start to put some pieces together.”

“Diplomas have your information about where you went to college, what kind of degrees you have, and what a lot of adversaries have really figured out is people use this personal information as passwords,” Newfield added. “So someone may look at you and go, 'Wow, you went to this university or this college. Let me try some of these well-known pass phrases associated with it, think who the team mascot is. What are the slogans of that university or college?' But why give the leg up to an adversary when you can just spend a few minutes to make sure you have a clean background?”

You may think it is something safe for coworkers, clients or vendors to see, but those you know may not be the only ones looking.

“A lot of people are taking the information, these videos, and they’re posting them to social media,” said Newfield. “They’re posting them to unsecured areas on the Internet and now that information is out there. Your worst case scenario may be their best case scenario: that it becomes viral. Now millions of people have seen these phone numbers and we all know what people do with that information.”

“If I’m watching you, I can take screenshot and really zoom in on it,” Skiba added.

Protecting yourself is easy. Look at your background before you begin a video call. See how it appears on screen. Can't remove sensitive information? Do this:

“A lot of people do the blurred background, which means I can see your face, but I can’t see what’s behind you,” Newfield said.

Or choose a virtual background or video filter.

Skiba said schemers can also easily break into the web cameras we use for video calls. Do this to stop them:

“If you don’t have to be on camera, if someone else is presenting, turn your webcam off because scammers can actually penetrate into a system,” he said. “Just simply while you’re watching or just participating, they can actually be looking in your background.”

Newfield also said to set ground rules with the group of people you will be video conferencing with before the call starts.

“Have this conversation: ‘Please don’t record,'” he said. “Make sure you’re not recording or posting these videos online without the permission of other people."

You may think you have nothing to hide; just be careful what information is seen while you are on screen.

If you have a question for Eyewitness Wants To Know, email us at EWTK@KENS5.com or call us as 210-377-8647.