Your Computer and Identity Theft: How Safe Are You?

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How safe am I from online identity theft?

Your Computer and Identity Theft: How Safe Are You?

If you pay bills, do your banking or have ever purchased anything online, your personal information isn't just yours anymore – it's in the possession of each and every company or person you conduct transactions with online. Sound scary? It is. But before you start boycotting the use of your computer, it's important to note that identity theft in the “real” world is no safer than computer identity theft in the virtual world. It's what you do to protect yourself that counts.

As in the ‘real world,' you can't completely eliminate the risk of identity theft on the Internet. However there are ways to reduce that risk and become a less appealing target. Here are just a few:

Beware of “phishing” scams. Online identity theft “phishing” scams are widespread and primarily occur via e-mail, although phishing links can also be embedded in the pages of various web sites you may visit. E-mail messages appear to come from well-known web sites and try to entice you to click on an active link included in the e-mail. The premise of a phishing email is typically to either update your account information or alert you of suspicious activity to your account. You are asked to click on the link to verify information, thus tricking you into giving out personal information on a fake or cloaked site that will then be used to steal your identity.

Take advantage of automatic computer updates. Computer hackers prey on the most vulnerable operating systems. Check your settings (Windows Control Panel or Mac System Preferences) to ensure that “automatic updates” is “on.” The computer will automatically check for and install new updates.

Install security software. Guard against hackers and computer viruses by installing anti-virus, anti-spyware, and firewall software programs. Some Internet service providers offer free software, but compare its features with other paid software. Although not free, your annual investment for a well-known program will probably cost less that $40.00.



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