According to the Federal Trade Commission, nine million Americans fall victim to identity theft each year!.
Perhaps more unsettling is that online criminals are coming up with new phishing schemes, malware and other online security threats every day in an effort to steal your personal information. Learn how you can fight back with the following identity theft protection strategies.
Protecting your home computer online
Here are a few helpful ways to protect yourself online from computer viruses and identity theft.
1. Install virus software
For the best online identity theft protection, look for a security suite that bundles antivirus software, a firewall and spyware and spam filters. Such suites offer protection from worms, viruses, spam, phishing, spyware, malware and malicious websites so you can surf the Web safely. Many offer automatic virus definition updates and scheduled virus scanning which keeps your computer virus protection up-to-date
2. Visit only secure websites
Before you make your next online purchase or submit other personal data through a form on the web, look for the padlock icon in the right-hand corner of your browser or address bar. Another way ensure that a website is secure is to look for “https” in the URL. The “s” lets you know you’re on a site using Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) protection.
3. Protect your personal data
Do not send your personal information via emails and be mindful of what information you choose to share on social networking sites and Web forms. If you’re an online shopper, consider opting out of storing yourcredit card information in your profile on the retailer’s website.
4. Choose strong passwords
When creating passwords for your computer and website log-ins, to use a password that cannot be easily guessed by a potential hacker. Use a meaningless stream of upper and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols. Also, use a different password for each website, and change your passwords every 30-60 days. Be sure to write down your passwords and keep them in a secure place.
5. Safeguard your wireless network
If you’re using a wireless network, be sure to secure it. Basic steps such as changing the default password, username and SSID and turning on WPA/WEP encryption to scramble any data you send over the Internet can go a long way in protecting your computer from hackers. Also, be cautious of what information you choose to share online when using public Wi-Fi connections.
6. Don’t open any strange emails
If you get an email from someone you don’t know, exercise caution before opening. Be mindful of downloading suspicious attachments and clicking on links within emails or instant messages, even if they’re from someone you know. It’s possible a friend or family member’s computer became infected with a virus or that their email account was hacked.
7. Check your browser settings
Making good use of your browser’s security settings can also help with identity theft protection. Here you can manage security levels for how you browse the Internet. These levels include prompts before downloading website content, lists of trusted and non-trusted sites, acceptance of cookies, browsing history, and more.
Protecting your home computer from theft
If you thought computer virus protection was the only security you needed to defend your computer and identity, think again. What happens if someone breaks into your home and steals your computer? If you store personal information on your PC or laptop, you’ve just become an easy target for identity theft.
1. Keep records
Write down the make, model and serial number of your PC or laptop and keep it in a secure place. Also, be sure to keep your receipt to show proof of purchase.
2. Set up password protection
Whether at home or in a college dorm, set up strong passwords to use for logging into your computer at start up and for your screensaver. Also, set up a secure, password-protected folder for documents containing personal data.
3. Use locks
If you have a laptop, buy a laptop lock and secure it anytime you leave the laptop unattended.
4. Hide it away
Do not leave laptops in plain sight, such as in the backseat of your car. If you must have the laptop with you when you travel, either lock it in the trunk of your car or take it with you.
5. Install anti-theft software
Several companies have released software that can track your computer in the event of theft. Should the stolen computer attempt to connect online, you’ll be alerted and have the option to erase all personal data from the hard drive at that time. This software also aids in locating the stolen computer.
6. Etch it
Protecting your computer by engraving your initials or other identifying marks onto your PC or laptop can aid in the recovery of a stolen system.
Remember, protecting your home and computer from cybercriminals is a battle you can win when armed with the right information.
By following any or all of these identity theft protection strategies, you’re taking the proper steps to ensure your personal data isn’t at risk!.