As the reported incidents of online identity theft continue to rise, more and more people are becoming aware of this type of crime. But it is important for novice Internet users, as well as experienced surfers, to take extra measures to protect sensitive personal information.
There are a few basic steps you can take to protect yourself from becoming the next victim of online identity theft. First and foremost, never give out your personal information, account numbers or passwords unless you have initiated the transaction. If you receive a phone call requesting this information, do not reply. Instead, contact the business making the request or log onto their Web site to be sure the request is legitimate. Even if the caller threatens to close or penalize your account, do not surrender your personal information.
Be sure to report any suspicious or unauthorized activity to the business it supposedly originated from for investigation. You should also monitor your credit cards and bank accounts on a regular basis to catch any questionable activity and deal with it as soon as it is discovered.
Use the most current operating system on your computer, and run a compatible anti-spyware virus protection and install firewall software. Keep these programs up to date and secure your wireless Internet connections.
Internet phishing scams are one of the most common ways thieves seek to steal your identity online. These scams usually come in the form of an official-looking e-mail from a familiar financial institution or Web site that you might have an account with, such as eBay or PayPal. Within the e-mail, there will typically be a link with a request asking you to confirm your account data and/or update your password. Clicking on these will take you to a Web site that closely resembles the business site. Once you enter your personal information into this cloned site, it will be sent directly to a thief.
Some tips that can help protect you from becoming a victim of computer identity theft include:
• Use good anti-spam, anti-adware and anti-spyware on your computer and keep them running whenever the computer is connected to the Internet.
• Install a firewall.
• Avoid clicking on pop-up ads and never enter any personal information on the Web sites these ads lead to.
• Do not click on links in e-mails unless they are from a trusted source.
• Keep your anti-virus software up to date and current.
• Stay informed and educated about the most recent computer identity theft trends and methods.
• Use strong passwords.
• Shop online with care.
• Avoid software that can harm your computer.
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