How to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft
Identity theft has been a thorn in the side of millions of people and has been sweeping the nation in recent years. The advent of the internet has brought on a whole new level of criminals, as well as brand new methods of stealing the identities of unsuspecting individuals. Online Identity theft is rampant and there are a number of ways in which online predators can get away with stealing your personal information. Following is some helpful information on the various ways a person may get a hole of your identity over the internet, as well as a couple of things you can do to protect yourself from identity theft.
There are a number of viruses which can be sent to your computer unbeknownst to you. Some of these viruses are in the form of executable files which you must open in order to become active, but others are sent through email and even various web pages. Often a phishing virus will be sent via an e-mail that appears to be from an official site such as PayPal or AOL. The email will say something like, “Due to a recent data crash, we have lost your personal information. Please click on the following link and update your credit card information”. In some cases the e-mail will ask for your password or other sensitive information. It is important for you to remember that online assailants can create e-mail accounts as well as duplicate official logos, making their e-mail look very realistic. Never give your information out to anyone through e-mail. If you are unsure of the validity of an e-mail, contact the merchant or financial institution directly through their official website to be sure they are the ones who sent you the e-mail.
Another thing to be very cautious of is paying for anything online through a site that is not secure. Official payment sites will always have certain characteristics that will assist you in being able to verify that they are secure. The first thing you will notice when going to a secure payment site is that the prefix of the web address will be, “https”, not just “http” as seen in the address of other websites. For example, if you go and visit your favorite retail online store, the main web address will be something like this, “http.www.favoritestore.com”, however, when you click on “check out” or “pay now”, the web address should be prefixed with “https”. Watch for the “s” as an indication that the payment site is secure. You can visit your banking website to see an example of the “s” located at the end of “http”. Another thing to watch for is the little lock icon that appears in the lower right hand corner of the page. Be cautious because this lock icon can also be duplicated. Always click on it to check authentication. Finally, as a rule of thumb, should you ever become unsure of a websites authenticity, do some research before using the payment feature or entering any sensitive information.
Purchase Credit Monitoring
One of the best ways to protect your self from credit card fraud scams and identity theft is to sign up for some sort of credit monitoring service. There are a number of websites available which provide this service and finding one is quite simple. Not only will these sites provide you will continuous updates on any changes made to your credit report, but they will also alert you if there is any unusual activity. Most of the time these services allow a free credit report initially in order for you to see where you are in terms of your report. After that the service will send you an e-mail anytime your credit report is pulled or anything fluctuates with your score. Unfortunately, the number one way for a person to discover that his/her identity has been stolen is by being denied for credit because of some mark that was placed there without his/her knowledge. By continuously monitoring your credit you can save yourself some of the headaches associated with identity theft and credit card fraud.
There are a number of references which can be found online to further your education on identity theft, as well as how to protect yourself from it. In addition, your financial institution will typically have a wealth of information in the form of pamphlets designed to inform you of the many risks associated with identity theft and how to avoid them.