Keeping Your Identity Safe Online

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    We are living in the age of technology where information is just a click away. We can easily get access to journals, be in touch with our friends who are miles away, and shop in the comfort of our homes. However, this easy access to information has some disadvantages as well. This has led to security breaches and an increase in online identity theft. The Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) reported that 8 million Americans were affected by breaches in the first quarter of 2008 and about 54 million people were affected in 2007.

    If you are not cautious enough, you can easily become a victim of online identity theft.  It is booming because hackers are at a much lesser risk of getting caught. It’s difficult to trace hackers in that they can access your confidential information while being thousands of miles away.

    When you sign up for an e-mail account you provide essential information such as name, address and e-mail addresses. For online banking, you need to provide Social Security numbers to make your financial transactions.

    Thus, your system ends up storing confidential information such as your name, telephone number, home address, bank account number, routing numbers, Social Security number and history on every website you visit.

    This information is stored in your computer’s browser cache, browser history, hidden system files, system registry, user directories, program directories, root directory and recycle bin. An identity thief can easily access this personal information and misuse your identity, causing severe financial loss. It can also hamper your social image and personal relationships.

    To ensure your privacy, always erase your Internet data such as websites visited, cookies, history, and confidential information including passwords, ID’s, banking and credit card information. Choose strong passwords while surfing the Net and always keep your passwords secret.

    While downloading files from the Internet you need to be extra cautious. Certain corrupt files can make your computer vulnerable to viruses. Make sure that you only download files that come from trusted sources.

    Trojans and other computer viruses can infect your computer and steal personal information right from your system’s hard drive. Some Trojans and computer viruses can track keystrokes and report your personal information to an identity thief.

    Use anti-virus and other security software to keep thieves away from your computer. You need to regularly run your anti-virus and antispyware programs to scan your computer for problems.

    It is a good idea to completely remove your chats from the Internet. Be careful while sending and receiving e-mails or filling in survey forms that require your personal information. Criminals use email hoaxes to lure victims onto fake websites. Never respond to requests for personal or financial information.

    In case you become a victim of identity theft, immediately file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission and have a fraud alert placed on your credit report.

    This will prevent the thief from opening any accounts in your name. Immediately notify credit card companies and banks to ensure your safety.

    You can reduce the possibility of becoming a victim of identity theft by understanding how thieves access personal information and guarding yourself against it. Following safe surfing practices and arming your computer appropriately can give you the much needed security and also let you enjoy the immense benefits that Internet offers.

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