Learn to protect yourself from identity theft on web
Identity theft is on the rise. According to http://www.identity-theft.us.com, about 700,000 Americans a year wind up as identity theft victims, and these victims spend roughly 175 hours and $1,000 repairing the damage.The internet, and computers in general, are popular tools with the thieves. We’ve compiled some basic tips to help you protect yourself from identity theft.– First and foremost, establish and maintain good passwords (access our earlier article on this topic at http://www.friscocomputerstore.com). Develop passwords that are at least seven to eight characters in length, use upper/lower case and a combination of letters, numbers and characters (a phrase is best). Also, be sure you can remember the password, and never reveal it to anyone.
— Don’t e-mail personal or financial data. Being asked by a company to e-mail personal information should raise a really big red flag. Legitimate companies do not do this.– When entering information on a website, be sure the site encrypts the information. You can check by looking for https (the “s” means “secure”) in the URL in the address bar of your browser.– Never respond to e-mails that direct you to a website to verify personal information no matter how legitimate the request seems. This is an example of “phishing,” a practice we first addressed in our column a few months ago. Since then, it’s alarming how quickly this ploy has increased. We receive probably two to three phishing e-mails a day.
— Avoid using computers in public places for personal transactions. Computers found in internet cafes and airports, for example, could contain malicious software designed to record or copy the information you enter. — When you’re finished using the internet, be sure to close the connection, especially if you do not have a firewall in place.– Prevent spyware from being downloaded. Spyware invades your computer as the result of clicking on pop-ups or downloading programs or applications. While most spyware is more annoying than anything else, it can also act as a tool for bad guys to copy what you type and send it off to hackers bent on using your information. — While offline, be sure to shield your credit card so that others around you can’t copy it or capture it on a cell phone or other camera.
— Promptly check your account and credit card statements for bogus charges. Also, if your statement doesn’t show up when expected, call the company immediately to confirm that someone hasn’t changed your address. In fact, if you adhere to the above precautions, many will advocate that you’re safer to eliminate paper statements altogether in favor of copies online leaving no easily accessible paper trail.– And finally, always monitor the situation by checking your credit report at least once a year. Make sure that all accounts open in your name are truly yours. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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