Identity Theft

Satheesh C B | Saturday, December 13, 2008 | 0 comments

The short answer is that identity theft is a crime.Unlike your fingerprints, which are unique to you and cannot be given to someone else for their use, your personal data ­ especially your Social Security number, your bank account or credit card number, your telephone calling card number, and other valuable identifying data ­ can be used, if they fall into the wrong hands, to personally profit at your expense.

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In recent years, the Internet has become an appealing place for criminals to obtain identifying data, such as passwords or  banking information. In their haste to explore the exciting features of the Internet, many people respond to "spam" ­ unsolicited E-mail ­ that promises them some benefit but requests identifying data, without realizing that in many cases,.

Practical Steps to Avoid Becoming the Next Identity Theft Victim

  • Only do online transactions on your computer. Don't do it at work, don't do it on your friend's computer, and never never do online transactions at a public terminal.
  • Sweep your designated computer to remove any traces of your online identity from your computer. Note: this means that you will have type in your credit card number each time you make a transaction. Yes, this might take a little extra time, but you want your credit card number in your head, not in your computer.
  • Run a malware scan regularly. When we think of malware, we think of spam bots, denial of service attacks, and other web mischief. Although it's not mentioned much, another malware is to trap your online identity.
  • Secure your PC. Put a password on your PC and make it a password no one can guess. The name of your wife or the name of your child does not cut it.
  • Log off your PC when you are not in front of it. It is such a simple thing to do. On Vista, Start, the little right arrow, logout. On XP, Start, logout.
  • Never click on links sent in unsolicited e-mail. Instead, type in a web address you know. Use firewalls, anti-spyware, and anti-virus software to protect your home computer, and keep them up-to-date
  • When using your credit and debit cards at restaurants and stores, pay close attention to how the magnetic stripe information is swiped by the waiter or clerk. Dishonest employees have been known to use small hand-held devices called skimmers to quickly swipe the card and then later download the account number data onto a personal computer. The thief uses the account data for Internet shopping and/or the creation of counterfeit cards.
  • Reduce the number of credit and debit cards you carry in your wallet.Keep a list or photocopy of all your credit cards, debit cards, bank accounts, and investments -- the account numbers, expiration dates and telephone numbers of the customer service.
  • Install a firewall on your home computer to prevent hackers from obtaining personal identifying and financial data from your hard drive. This is especially important if you connect to the Internet by DSL or cable modem.Install and update virus protection software to prevent a worm or virus from causing your computer to send out files or other stored information
  • Before disposing of your computer, remove data by using a strong "wipe" utility program. Do not rely on the "delete" function to remove files containing sensitive information.
  • Be aware that file-sharing and file-swapping programs expose your computer to illegitimate access by hackers and fraudsters.Many file-sharing programs are downloaded by youngsters without the knowledge of their parents. There are software programs available that identify file sharing software and locate shared files on home computers.

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