Tips How To Prevent Identity Theft Online

Saturday, March 17, 2012, 2:00 AM | 1 Comment

Your Identity is always at risk when you are on the Internet often clicking away your time and energy. If you are not careful, your Identity can be stolen in the form of your personal information (anything from your Social Security or bank account numbers to your name and address). The thief is then able to use your information to commit fraud or theft, potentially damaging your credit record and good name in the process.

Some Identity theft may be obvious to you and others not so obvious. Believe it or not, some websites are created for the sole purpose of stealing information from you in addition to sending some malicious virus to your Internet access device. It’s hard to judge the difference between legitimate and virus-generating websites.

The most common examples of identity theft include credit card fraud, bank fraud, phone or utility fraud, employment-related fraud, government document or benefit fraud and loan fraud. If you are receiving Social Security benefits, the theft may include diversion of your check to another address.

In the U.S., statistics show the total annual fraud amount increased by 12.5 percent to $54 billion in 2009. There are many different ways your personal information can be stolen electronically.

There are three areas you can protect yourself online:

  1. Password Protection
  2. e-Mail Safety
  3. General Online Security

Password Protection
This seems very obvious but often some folks have password like 123456 or other similar ones.

  • Never share your password or PIN with anyone.

  • Never write your password down where they could be easily found by others.

  • When creating password, don’t use information that could be easily linked to you – such as your birth date, Social Security number, or phone number.

  • Use password that contain both letters and numbers, preferably not recognizable words.

  • Use a unique password for each system. Always use a different password for each system you access.

  • Change your online account password often. Some banks recommend that you change your passwords every 30 days.


e-Mail Safety
Phishing is an email scam that attempts to obtain confidential personal or financial information from you. It takes the form of a fake message which appears to be from a financial institution or service provider.

  • If an offer received via e-mail or on a website sound too good to be true, it probably is.

  • E-mail is not secure. Never e-mail personal financial information such as account numbers or your Social Security number.

  • Don’t open e-mail or attachments from senders you don’t know. And even when you know the source, exercise caution. Attachments may be Trojan Horse programs that compromise your computer’s security.

  • Beware of e-mail scams. Never respond to unsolicited e-mail or click a link within a suspicious e-mail asking you to validate your account information or provide personal information.

  • Use e-mail filtering software to screen for spam and identify suspect messages.

  • Turn off the “preview” function of your e-mail program. The feature can be a security risk.

  • Use secure messaging when it’s available.


General Online Security
Many banks are committed to providing you with a secure online experience that protects your confidential information.

  • If you are providing financial information or placing an order online, be sure the site is secure. Look for a URL that begins with “https://” and the “closed padlock” (secure lock) in the lower right hand corner of your browser.

  • Do business only with financial institutions and online merchants that you know and trust.

  • Watch out for copycat sites that may try to look like a financial institution. Be sure you are using the correct web address for your bank.

  • Don’t reply to any e-mail or pop-up message that requests you update or provide personal information.

  • Never leave your computer unattended while using any online banking or investing service.

  • Always log off completely and close your browser when you are finished with a secure session.

  • Only access your personal financial information from a computer you “trust.” Internet kiosks and cyber cafes are not as secure as your personal computer.

  • Make sure your computer is up-to-date with security patches for your operating system and applications. Windows users should turn the Auto-Update feature on. Security patches may be found at vendor’s websites. Check the sites periodically as these patches are frequently updated.

  • Consider using a personal firewall to prevent hackers from invading your personal computer, especially if you are using DSL, Fiber Optics, or a cable modem to access the Internet.

    A firewall can make you virtually “invisible” online and will help to block out communications from unauthorized sources.

  • If you use wireless networking, make sure to turn on all security features such as WPA encryption. Change the default password and Service Set identifier (SSID) on your wireless router.


In a Nutshell
When you go online, be alert and be on the lookout for websites that can steal your personal information from your station of Internet access.

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