Internet Identity Theft

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Internet identity theft continues to grow, as thieves get more creative and more advanced in their attacks on your personal information. And as the popularity of online communities continues to grow, risk of cyber attacks leading the identity theft will grow.

So what steps can you take to better protect yourself from the threat of Internet identity theft? We have a few ideas.

Tips to Protect Yourself Against Internet Identity Theft

  • Update your operating system and Web browser software regularly. Operating systems frequently offer free software "patches" to close newly discovered system flaws that spyware can exploit.
  • Install a personal firewall on your computer. A firewall keeps unauthorized users from breaking into your computer. It can also alert you if spyware already on your computer is sending information out that can be used for Internet identity theft and other wrongdoings.
  • Install Internet filters to protect your children. Filters can prevent unwanted e-mails from reaching your kids — which can help keep your kids away from both fraudulent and inappropriate websites.
  • Don't install software without knowing exactly what it is. Read the end-user license agreement (EULA) carefully before you download software, including games, peer-to-peer file-sharing programs, or anything else that may change or customize your computer functions. If you can't find or understand the EULA, don't install the software.
  • Delete spam e-mails without opening them. Spam e-mailers cast a wide net, hoping to attract users to sites that can invade your system and facilitate Internet identity theft via your computer. The easiest defense against these threats is your "delete" button.
  • Use "strong" passwords. An effective password protection system requires you to create passwords that contain at least eight characters. Be sure to use at least one number and one symbol (e.g., "%"). Don't use common words, family names or other passwords that hackers can easily guess.

Phishing and Internet Identity Theft

One of the most notorious Internet identity theft methods is "phishing." Thieves use spam or pop-up messages that claim to be from a business or financial institution, asking you to share your private information. The message usually claims that the company wants to verify or update your account. If you give them the information they seek, these criminals can steal your identity and ruin your credit.

To ward off Internet identity theft from phishing scams, keep the following points in mind:

  • Legitimate companies do not ask for your personal, financial information by email or by phone.
  • Never email personal or financial information unless you're the originator of the contact.

Remember this, too: The Internet provides you with instant research capabilities for looking into a company's background and history. If you suspect that something about an offer or request is shady, postpone any transaction until you investigate the company. Legitimate companies have a proven history that can be accessed and reviewed through news, business, government, and even complaint websites.

In the end, the Internet is a tool that can be used for good, for evil, or just for fun. Through these simple, common-sense precautions, you can establish safeguards that can help protect you from Internet identity theft.

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