There are many ways someone can steal your identity—using malware and phishing online, stealing your personal belongings, or setting up a false address to receive your mail. Learn more about what you can do to avoid this growing problem.
How can you protect yourself?
Be aware of spyware and viruses
Malicious software, or “malware,” can do many things that put you at risk for identity theft, including recording keystrokes, capturing personal information such as passwords and usernames, redirecting your attempts to access a desired website, and downloading unwanted code.
Protect your computer.
Always run a current version of antispyware and antivirus software on your computer.
Practice safe surfing.
Take precautions to avoid fake websites that ask you to enter your personal information. Using a search engine will correct any misspellings in a web address and help you avoid pages that contain malware.
Use spam filters.
Spam can carry malicious software and phishing scams. Good spam filters block most of them and will make your email system safer to use.
Protect your personal information
A few simple steps can go a long way in protecting your sensitive information.
The “s” in https stands for “secure”
Be sure that when you are providing personal information, you are on an encrypted site. Look for the https: at the beginning of the web address. Ensure that it is persistent on every page; otherwise it may not be secure. Encryption ensures that the information you provide travels only from your computer to their server.
Never reveal your Social Security number.
There are a few instances where this information is required, like when opening a new account or applying for a loan. Do not provide this information unless you have initiated the contact and have confirmed the identity of the person or business.
Eliminate paper statements and shred sensitive documents.
More and more companies are recommending that you opt out of receiving paper statements and access them online instead. An added benefit of this is that your personal information stays out of the U.S. Mail, where it could be stolen. If you do receive statements, make sure you shred them before disposing of them.
Treat your personal information and credit cards like cash.
Do not share your credit cards or personal information freely.
Know the signs of phishing
Phishing is a scheme that utilizes legitimate-looking spam emails and phony websites to deceive you into disclosing personal information.
Be skeptical of emails offering you money.
If an email seems suspicious, do not open it or click links within it. Just delete it from your inbox.
Do not share information with a website that is not encrypted.
A secure website will include an “s” after the “http” portion of the website address.
Question whether you have a relationship with this company.
If so, ask yourself whether they typically contact you and ask for information in this manner.
Use social media wisely
Sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube have become a common way for a lot of people to stay connected, but as with the rest of the online world, you should take precautions while using these networking services.
Don’t reveal too much.
Don’t publicize your physical address, where you work, or go to school. Don’t talk about your vacations as this would tell identity thieves that your house might be unoccupied. Never reveal personal information that might be the answer to a secret question used to reset your password.