The doors and windows are locked . . .what about your computer?
Recent studies show that Internet-related fraud is not as widespread as once believed, but Internet users are still vulnerable to identity thieves. Security shortfalls in computer software, failing to maintain and update software, and schemes to deceive you into giving out personal information are common risk factors for online identity theft.
What do I do to keep my computer and personal information safe?
- Update virus protection software regularly or when a new virus alert is announced.
- Be on the alert for security repairs and patches you can download from your operating system's web site.
- Don't download files sent to you by strangers or click on links from people you don't know.
- Use a firewall program, especially if you use a high-speed Internet connection (cable, DSL or T-1) that leaves your computer connected to the Internet 24 hours a day.
- Use a secure browser — software that encrypts or scrambles information you send over the Internet — to guard the security of your online transactions.
- Try not to store financial information on your laptop unless absolutely necessary.
- Don't give out personal information on the phone, through the mail or over the Internet unless you've initiated the contact or are sure you know with whom you're dealing.
- Use online access to watch your account activity. This applies to checking, savings, credit card, PayPal, eBay, and other accounts. Check your statements carefully and scrutinize each transaction.
- Place passwords on your computer, credit card, bank and phone accounts. Avoid using easily available information like your mother's maiden name, your birth date, the last four digits of your social security number or your phone number, or a series of consecutive numbers as passwords.
- Know the policy and procedures of companies like eBay, PayPal, banks, and credit card companies with regard to their communications with accountholders and how they go about gathering and maintaining account information, which is the surest way to foil "Phishing" scams.
What is "Phishing"?
All Internet users should be familiar with this popular identity theft scheme. The Better Business Bureau and Federal Trade Commission offer numerous articles on the subject. For more information, visit their web sites and enter "phishing" in the search engine.
Before you get rid of your computer:
Delete personal information. Deleting files using the keyboard or mouse commands may not be enough because the files may stay on the computer's hard drive, where they may be easily retrieved.
You can learn more about clearing information from your computer's hard drive from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
What do I do if I think my identity has been stolen?
Visit the Federal Trade Commission website for helpful information on reporting identity theft, closing affected accounts and repairing your credit report.
You can find a wealth of information regarding identity theft, Internet commerce, and other fraud-related issues on the following sites:
State of Idaho - Cyber Security
Federal Trade Commission
Privacy Rights Clearinghouse
U.S. Department of Justice
Identity Theft Prevention and Survival
CALPIRG: Privacy Rights and Identity Theft Campaign
Better Business Bureau
Internet Crime Complaint Center