You use the internet everyday to keep in touch with friends, shop, and do business. And you can find just about anything on the Web – including online identity theft.
Did you know that 7-10 percent of the U.S. population are victims of identity fraud each year? This is according to the Center for Victim Research.
In fact, Consumer Affairs Reports that Georgia ranks number one in cases of identity theft!
The first post in our identity theft series covered email phishing. Today, you’ll learn about online identity theft and how to use the Web safely.
What is Online Identity Theft?
Criminals use a variety of methods to steal their victims’ identities. Online identity theft happens when these criminals use your online activity, and the information you share online, to commit their crimes.
Identity thieves use tools such as malware, spyware, and viruses to steal the identities of their victims.
Read on to learn how to protect yourself online.
Related: Online Banking: What You Should Know
How to Protect Your Identity Online
It’s important to keep these safety practices in mind when surfing the web.
- Make sure you have antivirus and anti-spyware software installed on your computer, keep them updated, and run a full system scan at least weekly.
- Keep your computer’s operating system up-to-date and your firewall turned on.
- Use strong, unique passwords for secure sites. These should include eight or more characters with random numbers.
- Change your passwords every six months.
- When you download music, movies, or pictures, make sure you do so only from trusted websites.
Speaking of downloads, it’s important to remember that spyware can be attached to the file.
Spyware is a software that enables thieves to obtain secure information about your computer activities.
If you download music, movies, or pictures, make sure you only do so from trusted websites, and watch for these signs of spyware:
- Frequent pop-up ads
- Unexpected icons on your desktop
- Random error messages
- Sluggish computer performance
If you notice these signs, run a full system anti-virus and anti-spyware scan to safely remove the spyware.
Lastly, be careful when you use public computers and avoid performing any type of personal transaction.
Even logging into a website might give away passwords or other private information if spyware has been installed on the computer.
To Sum it Up:
- Online identity theft occurs when criminals use your online activity, and the information you share online, to commit their crimes.
- Identity thieves use tools such as malware, spyware, and viruses to steal the identities of their victims.
- To protect yourself from online identity thieves, be sure your computer’s operating system is up to date, that you have you have anti-spyware and anti-virus software installed, and run a full-system scan at least once a week.
- Remember to use strong passwords for secure sites. These should include eight or more characters with random numbers. Change passwords every six months.
- Only download music, movies, and photos from secure sites.
If you believe you are a victim of identity theft, you can file a report to the Federal Trade Commission online at identitytheft.gov or by phone at 1-877-438-4338.
For more information about identity theft and more, visit the Persons Banking Company Education Center.