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Protect yourself against Identity Theft

You hear about it all the time through media sources about the latest victim of identity theft, people caught out with the promise of winning big. For most of us thankfully this type of fraud is a rare occurrence, but the fraudsters are getting ever more sophisticated. We have all heard of the Nigerian scams, and it’s not just isolated cases here and there, there is a constant concerted attack on our privacy every day. There are gangs and criminal organisations worldwide that specialise in duping the unsuspecting individual, its big business believe me; and fund all types of criminal or terrorist activities.

Your inbox is the frontline trench in your war against the identity thieves and should be your first line of defence. Always use email authentication software for sensitive emails like bank or any financial statements and correspondence. If you’re like me then you may already have been offered verification security software to download. What this software does is to verify your login activities and report unusual activities on your account it also checks for Trojan viruses.

It’s a fact that today’s biggest cyber security concern is Identity Theft. Cyber thieves use all kinds of methods to hack into your system, the use of spyware for intercepting information and key-logging software to steal personal or financial information from you, a great deal of this can be carried out without the user ever knowing a thing until it’s too late.

One of these activities is called phishing (pronounced ‘‘fishing”). The thief sends a simple e-mail that looks like it came from a genuine site (which is usually from financial institutions like Citibank, eBay, PayPal, Best Buy); with a fake message telling you there is a problem with your account.

You are asked to click on a certain link in the e-mail which then takes you to a site that is a copy of your usual bank. Of course you are then asked to fill in personal security details like you social security number or other bank account details.

Reliable ways to minimize the risk of your identity being stolen

Do business with reputable companies

It sounds obvious but is overlooked by many people. Always check your browser’s address bar for the correct URL. You may have heard of recent news where hundreds of Twitter users were tricked with this method, once checked it was discovered that there was one character added to the legitimate URL but many people especially those with poor eyesight were duped. The consequences of your account being taken over by a spammer or worse still by Identity thieves doesn’t bear thinking about. Scammers will trick you by creating web sites that appear to be legitimate. Don’t visit any site that is using third party links. Open a new browser and type the address yourself if you want to visit a site.

You can also check privacy policies to see how the company in question use and distribute information. Many companies allow customers to request that their information not be shared with other companies.

Maintain a security mindset – always be sceptical of unfamiliar sites and links, suspicious e-mails and IM (instant messenger) messages.

Anti-virus software and firewall

As standard practice, the use and maintenance of an anti-virus software and firewall will protect your computer from attacks that may steal or modify data on your computer.

Make sure to keep your anti-virus program and firewall up to date. You can set this to automatically update by configuring your firewall, it’s a good idea to familiarise with the workings.

Be Diligent with identity robbery

As a precautionary step, regularly check your credit card statements for strange transactions or transactions you don’t recall, unusual charges on your bills, bills for products and services you don’t have, or worse, unexpected denial of your credit card.

Once the identity robbery has been confirmed, calls to appropriate companies and agencies have to be done at once, the longer the delay the more damage. Have your credit card accounts closed right away so future charges will be denied.

Contact the Social Security Administration if your SSS card number has been accessed or the DMV of your driver’s license or car registration papers were stolen. This is to warn these agencies for possible unauthorized use of your personal ID information. Make sure to file a criminal report with the local police.

For U.S. citizens, you need to contact the main credit reporting companies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) to see if there had been any unexpected or unauthorized activities.  Have fraud alerts placed on your credit reports to prevent new accounts from being opened without verification. File a complaint with the FTC and IFCC.

A website, IdentityTheftActionPlan.com, had been created to help citizens prevent, detect, and respond to identity theft and fraud. Within the site is information on how identity theft occurs, the latest prevention tips, what to do in case you are victimized and pertinent information of law enforcement agencies that investigate these crimes. Two other sites to learn more about phishing and ID theft are: consumer.gov/ and idtheftcenter.org

Vigilance, information and action

Cyber security dictates that every cyber citizen (those using computers and the Internet in most of their activities) need to be vigilant at all times. Computer protection is your responsibility so be sure to keep updated at all times with the latest anti spyware and virus detection methods.

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