Internet Identity Theft
Internet identity theft continues to grow, as thieves get more creative
and more advanced in their attacks on your personal information. And as long as
you choose to be a member of the online community, you are at risk of cyber
So what steps can you take to better protect yourself from the threat of
Internet identity theft? We have a few ideas.
Tips to Protect Yourself Against Internet Identity
Update your operating system and Web browser software regularly.
Operating systems frequently offer free software “patches” to close newly
discovered system flaws that spyware can exploit.
Install a personal firewall on your computer.
A firewall keeps unauthorized users from breaking into your computer. It can
also alert you if spyware already on your computer is sending information out
that can be used for Internet identity theft and other wrongdoings.
Install Internet filters to protect your children.
Filters can prevent unwanted e-mails from reaching your kids — which can help
keep your kids away from both fraudulent and inappropriate websites.
Don't install software without knowing exactly what it is.
Read the end-user license agreement (EULA) carefully before you download
software, including games, peer-to-peer file-sharing programs, or anything else
that may change or customize your computer functions. If you can't find or
understand the EULA, don't install the software.
Delete spam e-mails without opening them.
Spam e-mailers cast a wide net, hoping to attract users to sites that can
invade your system and facilitate Internet identity theft via your computer.
The easiest defense against these threats is your “delete” button.
Use “strong” passwords.
Create passwords that contain at least eight characters, and be sure to use at
least one number and one symbol (e.g., “%”). Don't use common words, family
names or other passwords that hackers can easily guess.
Phishing and Internet Identity Theft
One of the most notorious Internet identity theft methods is “phishing.”
Thieves use spam or pop-up messages that claim to be from a business or
financial institution, asking you to share your private information. The
message usually claims that the company wants to verify or update your account.
If you give them the information they seek, these criminals can steal your
identity and ruin your credit.
To ward off Internet identity theft from phishing scams, keep the following
points in mind:
Legitimate companies do not ask for your personal, financial information by
email or by phone.
Never email personal or financial information unless you're the originator of
Remember this, too: The Internet provides you with instant research
capabilities for looking into a company's background and history. If you
suspect that something about an offer or request is shady, postpone any
transaction until you investigate the company. Legitimate companies have a
proven history that can be accessed and reviewed through news, business,
government, and even complaint websites.
In the end, the Internet is a tool that can be used for good, for evil, or just
for fun. Through these simple, common-sense precautions, you can establish
safeguards that can help protect you from Internet identity theft.