Identity Theft First Aid Kit

Online Security

Take precautions against identity theft while online

Although shopping online can actually be more secure than using your credit card in retail stores, there are still many devious acts conspired on the internet. You must be aware of scams, and methods that can be used to access your personal information in order to protect yourself from becoming a victim.

Beware of “Phishing”
Do not respond to phone calls or e-mails that ask for your personal or account information. Contact the actual company that the phone call or e-mail is from. Reputable companies will not ask you for sensitive information through an e-mail or over the phone unless you have initiated a request.

Check the sender of any suspicious email, and if the address is out of the ordinary, add the sender to your blocked e-mail or spam lists. If you are redirected to a website, check the URL (website address) to make sure it is the real address of the company. Whenever you are asked for any personal information, contact the company supposedly requesting the information and verify that the request is valid.

 

Check for Encryption
When using personal data to buy online, or when entering sensitive personal information, make sure that the page is secure by checking the URL for “https” in the header (vs. http). Another way to verify that a website has a valid security certificate is to look for a lock icon at the bottom right-hand corner of the browser. If you double-click on the lock, you can view the details of the security certificate to ensure your information will be encrypted during transfer.

 

Install a Firewall
Protect yourself from hackers by installing a firewall on your computer. Firewalls act as a guard to block outside users from accessing the information on your computer. Make sure that your firewall is turned on, properly configured and updated on a regular basis.

 

Use Credit Cards
Because debit card charges come directly out of your bank account, in the case of an incorrect charge, recovering your funds may take longer. While the refunds or corrections are being processed, you may incur overdraft charges and bounced checks. By using a credit card for online purchases, you are better protected should fraud occur.

 

Password-Protect Files
Choose passwords that are secure and are more difficult to figure out than your phone number or birth date. The most secure passwords contain a combination of upper and lower-case letters and symbols, as well as numbers. Any folders or files that someone else might access and that contain sensitive information, should be password-protected and encrypted when stored on your computer.

 

Run Virus Protection
In addition to installing virus protection software, be sure to update and run it regularly in order to recognize and cure current viruses. Not only can viruses corrupt or destroy your files, they can also insert and run programs that send out files from your computer, and gather sensitive personal data. When choosing anti-virus software, make sure that the program is able to eliminate or quarantine viruses that are identified.

 

Block Pop-Ups
It is best to install a pop-up blocker to avoid general irritation along with the threat of viruses and adware or spyware. These unexpected windows are not only annoying, but can contain malicious programs that are installed when you click on them and send back sensitive data to the originator. These programs can track and store your internet activity as well as personal data on your computer.

 

Turn Off File Sharing
Only use file-sharing when absolutely necessary and, when you are not on your computer, turn the file-sharing feature off. File-sharing and file-swapping allow people to share files, such as; music, programs and photos, but they expose the local files on your hard-drive. If you insist on using these types of programs, make sure your virus software and firewall are installed and updated regularly.

 

“Wipe” Your Hard-Drive
Before selling or disposing of your computer system, use a utility program to remove your data. Simply deleting your files does not always destroy the data, and some files may be able to be accessed and recovered, putting your personal information in malicious hands.

 

For more prevention tips, please refer to the following sections:

 

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Identity Theft Statistics
Identity Theft Glossary