Using Zoom and other virtual meeting apps is putting you at risk of identity theft - here's how to stay safe

Using Zoom and other virtual meeting apps is putting you at risk of identity theft - here's how to stay safe
(Image credit: Getty)

In the past few weeks, teleconferencing has taken on a whole new and important role in our lives. People who are able to work from home have been telecommuting, communicating with colleagues over video apps like Zoom, GoToMeeting, and more. Students are learning from home, tuning into classes via the same apps. And finally, as we're on lock down and for the most part, staying home and unable to see our friends, family, and other loved ones, we're connecting with those people via those very same apps. 

We knew it before, but now we have the stats to prove it: teleconferencing can put your personal information at risk. According to a data sheet by IdentityForce, which ranks as our top pick of the best identity theft protection services, an increase of 400% in video conferencing has led to an increase in information leaks. In the month of April alone, over 500,000 Zoom account credentials were found for sale on the Dark Web. That means any piece of information you use to sign up or log into these apps, like your bank account number, name, and email address, can fall into the wrong hands - or may already have. Zoom is just one example of a video conferencing app that has its share of privacy concerns as of late. 

Protect your identity when teleconferencing

Want to stay protected? IdentityForce has shared its tips to better protect your identity if you have to use these video conferencing apps. 

  1. Password protect your meetings: When setting up a video call, you will have the option to password protect the meeting. That means that anyone entering the meeting will have to input the password in order to join, which also means that intruders and unwelcome guests will be kept out. "Zoombombers" are wreaking havoc on Zoom meetings, which has become a disturbing trend. 
  2. Check for updates: You don't want to work with outdated software. Make sure that all your programs are up-to-date, so that you have the best and most updated versions of security protection against the latest threats. You don't want hackers getting into your personal files or other information stored on your devices. 
  3. Implement a waiting room: This is another layer of protection. It allows video hosts to prevent meeting participants from interacting with one another before the meeting start time. Also consider disabling the "Join Before Host" feature. 
  4. Don't share your personal ID: A personal meeting ID is a virtual meeting room reserved for you and you only - so it makes sense that you wouldn't want to share it with anyone. When creating a meeting, don't share your personal meeting ID. Instead, create a whole new ID per session. 
  5. Manually enter your meeting ID: If you're invited to a virtual meeting, don't click on the link provided. It's recommended that you manually enter the meeting ID into the conferencing site to ensure that you're actually joining the meeting and not clicking on a nefariously generated link. Even some real links have been shown to accidentally leak user information. 
  6. Secure screen-sharing and chat features: If you will be sharing your screen in your meeting and will be the only one, make sure to disable others' ability to share their screens. This can prevent others from sharing their screens when they are not supposed to. Similarly, lock the chat so that no one can send out a malicious link, by accident or otherwise. 
  7. Protect your session: Don't let "Zoombombers" interfere. "Lock" your video call after all participants have joined. 
  8. Check up on your privacy settings: This can mean anything from checking the privacy policies of the apps you're using to making sure that you're not sharing any personal information over the web. 

Identity theft is no joke, and it can take months to reclaim your identity in full. That's why we recommend the best identity theft protection services. If you need to run a video conferencing app, check out our picks for the best laptops to keep working from a home a seamless experience. 

Sophie Kaemmerle

Sophie is a born and bred New Yorker who, paradoxically, loves being in the great outdoors. Her favorite pastimes include running, baking, and writing. She also spends her time volunteering and leading volunteer projects with the Good+ Foundation and Achilles International when not providing information on the best deals, products, and services on the internet to TopTenReviews readers.