When it comes to online identity theft, everyone should know two main things. The first is that nobody is immune to identity theft; you don’t even have to have a checking account or be an adult to fall prey to identity theft. The second thing you should know is that there are a few rules that you can follow to pervent being a victim.
One of the most important rules is that you should never go online unprotected. Today’s criminals are more computer savvy than ever, and they are always coming up with new ways to infiltrate your computer. Fortunately, Internet security companies are always changing to try to stay at least one step ahead of these bad guys so that they can’t infiltrate your computer. The only way that you can protect yourself when you go online is to use the software of one of these Internet security companies. A couple of big names in computer protection offer all types of computer protection. When you purchase an anti-virus package form a company like Norton or McAfee, you will not only receive anti-virus protection but anti-spam and anti-spyware protection as well. The anti-spyware protection will keep identity thieves at bay.
If you don’t have an anti-virus program or your anti-virus program doesn’t protect you from spyware, you will have to get a program that does. Some of these programs are offered as free downloads on the web. While there are some free programs that are decent, none of the free programs are as good as the commercial programs. If you want to download free programs, you will be better off downloading several programs to double or triple up on your protection.
Another important rule when trying to protect yourself against online identity theft is to be careful with your email. There are a couple of ways that identity thieves use email. One of the most popular is called “phishing”. These are scams where the email sender tries to get you to click on links that download spyware onto your computer or try to get your passwords and account numbers. One of the most popular ways to get you to “bite” is to send emails that say something about your account (e.g. questionable activities on your account), about your balance (e.g. your balance shows a $1,000 credit) or a contest (e.g. you were selected for a prize from a free lottery). None of these things actually exist (the account, the balance, or the contest) but the phishers hope that you will try to log into the fictitious account with real passwords or usernames. Make a rule for yourself that no matter how enticing, you will not open these types of emails.
Another rule that you should make for yourself to avoid identity theft is to never open an email attachment if you don’t know the sender. Even if you recognize the sender but there is no personal message associated with the email you should not open it. If a friend of yours gets a computer virus, the virus can email itself to all the people in your friend’s address book. This means that you can get an attachment from a perfectly legitimate source that can download spyware on to your computer or worse, download a virus that will destroy your hard drive.
A final rule to follow to help you avoid online identity theft is to not enter information onto unsecured websites. It isn’t dangerous to buy and sell on the Internet (as long as you have proper spyware in place). However, you have to be careful about where you do your buying and selling.