Identity Theft: What Can I Do?

November 17, 2009

One of the biggest computer concerns people deal with is identity theft. Identity theft can be anything from using someone’s credit card to stealing money from their bank account. In the technical world we live in, many people wonder what they can do to help prevent identity theft. There are many preventative measures you can take to ensure your computer is not exploited for identity theft.

First, it is very important to have a good anti-virus program installed on your computer. A few months ago we wrote an article stressing the importance of having a good anti-virus program and how to make sure it’s a real program, not one of the many fake programs that are now infesting computers. A hacker can use viruses/trojans/worms/etc to take personal information that you enter into websites such as credit card information, personal address/bank information, and even your social security number. Having a good anti-virus program is an important step to protecting yourself.

Identity Theft

The second thing you should do is to be cautious whenever you are using a credit card online. Are you buying from a reputable site? If you are connected through a secure server then you should feel confident that the information will be encrypted. You will know you are connected to a secure server because there will be a little lock in the corner of your browser, or the website may start with “https://” as opposed to “http://”. We also wrote an article a while back on how Paypal has a very cool feature which allows you to set up a one-time credit card use.

When it comes to passwords, it is important to not use a password at more than one place (website, company, email, etc).  That way, if a password is compromised, it won’t damage multiple accounts.

Lastly, be careful in general when giving out personal information. Many online predators will try to trick people into thinking they are someone else. You should never give out your password, and you should change your passwords regularly. A website should never ask you for personal information in an email.  See this earlier article on choosing a good password. Even if an email “appears” to be be addressed from a valid email address, and even may be addressed to you by first and last name, never give out personal information. A lot of predator emails are also sent from fake Ebay email addresses. This has been a cause of concern and Ebay has will send out reminder emails to never give out personal information to combat this problem.

If you feel like you have been the victim, you need to take action immediately. Just like if your credit card is physically stolen you call to companies, you should take appropriate action if you feel your personal information has been jeopardized.

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