It seems that with every new technological advance, a new breed of crook crawls out from under a rock. With so many of us practically living our lives online, identity thieves have lots of opportunities to access our personal and financial information.
There are, however, precautions you can take to minimize the chances that you’ll become one of the victims.
The basics of safe computing
- Set up a firewall, anti-spyware and anti-virus protection on your computer. Update them frequently.
- Create strong passwords and encrypt them. The best passwords are at least eight digits long, and include upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and characters.
- Never respond to requests for you Social Security number, account numbers, etc. unless you initiated the contact and you’re sure who you’re dealing with.
The warning signs of email scams and phishing
- Salutation is generic rather than personalized with your name.
- Domain name doesn’t match company name.
- Email contains spelling or grammar errors.
- Email from financial institution requesting Social Security number, account number, or PIN.
- Threats to close account or issue fines or fees if you don’t respond right away with requested financial or personal information.
Online shopping and online auctions
- When shopping online, check the URL for the https prefix; the “s” indicates the site is secure. Also check for the lock icon at the bottom of the screen.
- Never pay with a wire service. Paying with a credit card protects the buyer with a “charge back” if the purchased item never arrives or isn’t what was expected.
- PayPal and eBay are imperfect. Read the security tutorials for the best possible experience.
- As always, a strong password is you best security. Never divulge your password online.
- Check seller’s feedback.
- Beware of PayPal and eBay phishing emails. In December 2005, the Anti-Phishing Working Group documented almost 10,000 unique phishing attempts claiming to be from the eBay or PayPal.
- Most are stolen by thieves with no interest in your personal information. Inscribing your name on your laptop will make it a lot harder to fence.
- Carry your laptop in a backpack rather than a laptop bag. It’s less conspicuous and easier to maneuver with your hands free.
- Encrypt your data and your passwords. Create a BIOS password.
- Never let your laptop out of your sight, especially at the airport. At the hotel, lock it in the safe. On the plane, place it under the seat in front of you, not in the overhead bin. Don’t think you’re laptop’s safe at the office; 40 percent of all stolen laptops are filched from workplaces.
- Consider a program to track your laptop. Some claim they can pinpoint a laptop’s physical location as soon as the laptop is connected to the internet. Others say they’ll notify you when the laptop is connected to the internet, and give you the option of remotely downloading the hard drive contents and then wiping the hard drive clean.
LifeLock is an industry leader in ID theft services. Go to LifeLock.com to learn more about the service LifeLock can provide to help you protect your identity and your money. Use promotional code DEFENSE to get 30 days free and $11 off annual enrollment.
At the end of the 30-day free period, your card will be automatically billed $9 monthly unless you cancel within that first 30-day period. You can cancel anytime without penalty by calling 1-800-LIFELOCK. This offer is for new LifeLock members only.