A Simple Guide to Prevent Identity Theft
Every day, fraudsters around the world develop new scams to steal personal and confidential business information from unsuspecting victims. Once stolen, this information is sold or traded on black market forums called underground economy servers. Credit card numbers, email account credentials and bank account numbers/balances are bought and sold through these forums daily. According to security firm Symantec, a victim’s credit card information can sell for as little as $0.07 per record and Online Banking credentials can sell for as much as $900 per record.
The best way to protect your identity is to educate yourself.
Malware is malicious software. Ensure that your computers have updated anti-virus software and firewall protection. Set daily automatic software updates and apply security patches for all of your programs and operating systems regularly.
Watch out for copycat websites that deliberately use a name or website address very similar to, but not the same as the real one. Always use pre-established links to access websites. Do not disclose your personal or confidential business information, such as a bank account number, credit card number or Online Banking credentials on websites accessed through an unsolicited e-mail hyperlink.
Hackers use algorithms to decrypt user names and passwords. These algorithms will look to the most commonly used combinations, such as “password” and “qwerty.” (Visit www.PCWorld.com to read “123456: The Worst Passwords of 2011.”) To protect your identity, your passwords should be unique to you and changed regularly. Use a combination of capital letters, lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols (!@#$%) to make your credentials more difficult to decrypt.
Fraudulent Emails, Text Messages, and Phone Calls
Reputable financial institutions and government agencies (like the FDIC) will never ask for bank account numbers, account balances, or banking credentials by unsolicited email, phone calls, or text messages. Similarly, you should not send confidential information via unencrypted email.
If you plan to travel, contact your bank and credit card providers in advance to avoid your account being temporarily disabled for security purposes.