Be Aware of Where You're Leaving Your Digital Footprint

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How do online identity thieves get information?

Be Aware of Where You're Leaving Your Digital Footprint

Identity theft and the Internet is a match made in heaven – for thieves. For them, the Internet is a 24/7 cash machine that just keeps paying out from other people's accounts.

Virtual identity thieves want exactly what real world identity thieves want: to capture your personal information and use it to create a new identity that will be used for their own monetary or material gain – and leaving you to bear all the liability. Just as you need to protect your credit card, bank, and personal information in the real world, you need to protect it online. Here are a few basic self-defense tactics:

Password-protect everything. Use passwords to access information and programs on your physical devices like computers, PDAs and cell phones. And refrain from using the option to “Remember My Password” for online accounts – if any of your devices are lost or stolen, a thief would have quick and unfettered access to every site you visited and be able to gain access using your stored password.

Think twice before using public Internet kiosks. Your “digital footprint” is captured on every computer you use. Web sites you visit are stored in the cache of the computer and if you haven't properly logged off of a personal account, your personal information may be accessible to others. Even worse, “keylogging” software is available that invisibly captures every keystroke made so that user names and passwords can be extracted. In a recent case, the Department of Justice successfully prosecuted a man who had installed keylogging software in 14 New York area Kinko's stores.

Educate yourself about identity theft phishing and pharming scams. Innocent e-mails and legitimate-looking web sites can be deceiving. Never click on active links embedded in e-mails or download attachments from unknown senders. An updated list of known phishing scams is archived at AntiPhishing.org.

   

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