Your browser's autofill could hand your private info over to scammers, security experts warn

Michael Finney Image
Wednesday, September 14, 2022
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One 7 On Your Side viewer reported receiving a text saying he was entitled to a rebate. But the form at the link was for a loan application -- and if his autofill were turned on, the scammers could have easier access to his private data.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Autofill sure makes using a computer easier.

As 7 On Your Side viewer Bill Becker says, "It's like, for example, name or first name, or last name, or even things like Social Security or credit card number. If that stuff is stored in your contact information and autofill is on, it's all automatically filled in for you."

Becker reached out to 7 On Your Side to warn against using autofill.

When 7 On Your Side's Michael Finney inquired how he came by this knowledge and if he worked in data security, Becker answered: "I used to. I left a long time ago, but I've kept current."

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He says texts and emails can be set up to stealthily steal autofill information.

Becker illustrated his point with a text he personally received. He pointed out two digits in a string of letters and numbers that he says are a unique identifier tied to him.

Becker tracked the text back to its source, a South American website.

"It appeared to be an application for an auto loan," he says, "but that's not what it said when it sent me the text message. It said, 'You have a rebate coming.'"

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Had his autofill been turned on, it could have believed it was filling out a loan form and given up an amazing amount of information.

7 On Your Side asked Sorin Mihailovici to weigh in. He heads up the website, Scam Detector.

"Unfortunately, scammers know this and just like in every other scam, criminals are actually focusing on people being too comfortable with everything they do," he said.

Sorin said the scam was first spotted three years ago, but has really blown up since. "My advice is to go into your settings on your laptop and turn off the autofill feature," he said.

It is simple to do; for instance on an iPad, just go to settings, then the browser, look for autofill and turn the feature off.

Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.

7OYS's consumer hotline is a free consumer mediation service for those in the San Francisco Bay Area. We assist individuals with consumer-related issues; we cannot assist on cases between businesses, or cases involving family law, criminal matters, landlord/tenant disputes, labor issues, or medical issues. Please review our FAQ here. As a part of our process in assisting you, it is necessary that we contact the company / agency you are writing about. If you do not wish us to contact them, please let us know right away, as it will affect our ability to work on your case. Due to the high volume of emails we receive, please allow 3-5 business days for a response.

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