Identity Theft – How to Protect Yourself
Whether doing business online or simply surfing the web, here are a few tips that can help limit your risk of identity theft.
Learn to Ignore Gargbage
Don’t be a sucker and fall for spam or gimmicks. When solicitations come your way, identify them as garbage and move on. Do not click links presented to you in spam emails. Do not click links presented to you on shady websites. Do not fall for alerts or warnings that mysteriously appear on-screen after you’ve opened a web page or email.
Use Common Sense
Do not fall for emails sent to you awarding prizes, inheritance, or anything alike. Do not respond to gimmicks such as “You’ve just won $1,000 – click here to claim your price”. Do not respond to websites that appear to have incoming email or messages waiting for you.
Be Careful Using Public Computers
This includes computers in schools, libraries, internet cafes and airports. Fraudsters prey on these computers, and are known to install keyboard-sniffing tools. For instance, you might login to check your hotmail from an internet computer, and once you type in your email address and password voila – the fraudster has snatched it. Gaining access to your email accounts makes identity theft a breeze for thieves.
Be Careful Using Non-Secured Wireless Internet Connections
Let’s say you’re at an airport on a non-secured wireless internet connection and decide to login and check your online banking – bad idea. There’s a reason Secured wireless internet connections exist. They protect/encrypt information passed between websites and your computers. If you decide to use non-secured wireless internet connections for online banking, checking email, etc, you’re setting yourself up for identity theft.
Use AntiVirus Software
AntiVirus software like Avast does a great job of warning you when something fishy comes along. Not only are they on the look out for viruses, but internet security monitoring features will work wonders for you too.
Clear Your Cache and Cookies
This should become standard practice – and where possible set your browser to automatically clear your cache and cookies upon closing. This will clear your browsing history and clear information you typed into websites (like searches, names, account numbers, passwords, email addresses, financial data, etc).
Do Not Disclose Personal Information
If you must disclose some personal information, consider for a minute who you’re giving it to and how reputable they are. Note that information like social security or insurance numbers and passwords should never, ever be given online.
Use a Secondary Credit Card
To limit your risk, sign up for a credit card with a low-limit, and use that card for online purchases. If, heaven forbid, you ever fall victim to credit card fraud the risk will be low. Credit card companies usually side with the consumer, so your woes will be temporary and low-risk.
Use a Secondary Email Address
A good defense is to use a secondary email, say @gmail.com or @hotmail.com for online transactions. These email addresses should be as close to anonymous as you can make them. If you ever fall victim to identity theft or fraud, you’ll feel better having these accounts exploited vs your own personal email address.
Never, Ever Share Passwords
That’s just plain stupid. Don’t ever respond to emails requesting passwords. Companies and banks will never email you asking you to confirm your password – nor are they ever likely to call you and request your password over the phone.
Watch Out for Phishing Scams
Phishing scams usually start with a fraudster claiming to be a credible vendor of yours. For instance, you may receive an email from your bank – but it’s not actually your bank. A clever fraudster may have just disguised his email to look as if it were sent by your bank, and it could possibly contain the right look and feel to fool you. Pay attention to the sender email address and links within the email. You may find that they do not belong to your bank at all. A popular phishing scam is to disguise an email and fool a person into clicking a link within it – that link could perhaps lead to a login page and as soon as you enter your username and password, the fraudsters have won.
Keep your guard up.