Preventing cyber identity theft is more involved than simply keeping hackers from intercepting your credit card number from online purchases. There are numerous opportunities when an identity thief can get his hands on your personal information.
Cyber Identity Theft Explained
Your computer holds a lot of information about you, especially if you utilize online banking and shop online. Cyber identity theft occurs when someone finds access to your personal information through various means of hacking and then uses the information for personal gain, such as stealing your identity to make purchases or open new credit accounts. Some cyber identity thieves actually sell your information to other unscrupulous people who then use your identity for similar purposes.
Cyber thieves have various outlets they use to get their hands on your personal information. Some use phishing techniques to steal your information, while others utilize more covert ways.
Phishing is a term that is applied to attempts to intercept your personal information online through a variety of methods:E-mail
The hacker poses as a representative from a reputable company, for example:
- Credit card company
- Health care provider
- Charitable organization
These e-mails feature logos which make the correspondence appear legitimate. The representative informs the recipient that the company needs some clarification, and often a sense of urgency is prevalent in the e-mail in an attempt to prompt the recipient to respond quickly without first verifying the authenticity of the request.
An urgent IM pops up on your computer and appears to be from a representative of a company you do business with. The representative insists that you verify some personal information such as:
- Account number
- Social Security number
- Date of birth
Sometimes the IM will feature a link to what looks like a credible website, when in fact it is nothing more than a portal designed to intercept personal information for use by cyber thieves.
Websites Phishers invite you to visit a website that appears to be a reputable company, but the site is actually a fake. Any information you enter goes straight to a cyber thief. If you are under the impression that you are applying for a credit account then the information you enter will be used by the people who designed the fake website for personal gain.
Cyber thieves utilizing spyware covertly download programs onto your computer which search your databases and extract personal information. You may not even know when a spyware program is on your computer, and you may actually have several such programs on your computer at once without realizing it until it's too late.A spyware program can wind up on your computer from your visit to a website, downloading a game or file, or by clicking on a link in an e-mail or instant message.
Preventing Cyber Identity Theft on Your PC
Use your best judgment when it comes to personal information on your computer. If something looks askew it is smart not to input your personal information.
Verify that your virus protection is not only up to date, but that it also is scheduled to run periodic checks on your system automatically. Many computer security experts suggest you run virus protection checks daily.
Some of the more popular virus protection programs include:
A quality anti-virus program is essential to preventing cyber identity theft. Never operate a computer - let alone connect to the Internet - without a reliable anti-virus program in place.
Your anti-virus program should already include a thorough spyware review as a part of the regularly scheduled scan, but you should also make it a habit to periodically review the listing of programs which are installed on your computer. You may find something that your anti-virus program missed.
Preventing Cyber Identity Theft on Shared Computers
A shared computer is a computer which is not used solely by you. An example of a shared computer is if you share a computer with roommates. A computer at an Internet Café is another example.
It is recommended not to use a shared computer unless you do not have any other option. try not to use shared computers while completing personal financial tasks. It is too easy for a skilled hacker to access the files after you use the computer. If you must use a shared computer for these tasks, always take these precautions first:
- Close the Internet browsers after completing your tasks.
- Make sure you do not check any boxes which allows the website to save your login name or password.
- Be aware of your physical surroundings; if someone is studying your keystrokes, log off and walk away.