How to Prevent Online Identity Theft

Identity theft can be costly

Identity theft can seriously disrupt the lives of its victims. Essentially, it is characterized by one stealing the identity of another for the purpose of using the victim’s credit information and finances for ill-gotten gain. Thieves are sometimes able to ruin a person’s credit and drain a checking and savings account before a victim even knows that their security has been compromised. To prevent this from happening, there are a few things that every person can do.

Tips for preventing identity theft

Information storage. Do not store personal financial and identifying information on a computer. Social security numbers, identification numbers, bank account numbers, passwords, password reminders and other log in information is what identity thieves are after. Keep this information safely stored elsewhere, but do not store it on a computer that can be hacked into.

Virus-protection software. Keep all personal and work computers adequately protected with . Some computer viruses are specifically designed for identity theft and may harvest personal information, such as social security numbers and bank account numbers, from an unprotected computer. To avoid this, virus-protection software should not only be installed on all computers used, but also updated regularly.

Firewalls. Install a good firewall program, which will prevent thieves from accessing any information stored on a computer.

Hyperlinks. Do not click on hyperlinks unless it is from a trusted source. Identity thieves are notorious for sending special offers by email that require a recipient to click on a link for more information or to make a purchase. Unfortunately, these links are often used to expose the computer to a virus or some sort of program that harvests personal financial information from a person’s computer.

Trusted sources. When making a purchase, requesting a personal loan or performing other financial transactions online, always be sure that the site is a trusted source. Never follow a link from an email to make a purchase or request a cash advance, even if the link looks like it is from a source that would ordinarily be trusted. Instead, take the time to type the store or lender’s URL into the browser’s address bar directly.

Safe Browsers. Only make purchases or perform financial transactions on the Internet when using a safe browser that will scramble or otherwise encrypt all of the date you send online. Also, look for a tiny padlock symbol at the bottom of web pages asking for personal or financial information. This lock means that the site has been deemed secure. If you do not see it, do not proceed with your transaction.

Computer-servicing precautions. Be careful when sending your computer out for servicing. It cannot be repeated enough times not to store personal financial information on a computer. However, if you do, be very careful as to whom you allow to service your computer, as the technician will easily be able to access this information, as well as other private photographs and information.

Selling precautions. When selling a used computer or even if you are just throwing one away, always delete any personal information that was previously stored on it. Special wipe programs exist, which can help delete this information. Be advised that simply erasing the information by hand is not recommended as deleted information still remains on a computer’s hard-drive.

Keeping up in a dangerous game of cat and mouse

Overall, shopping online, requesting an Internet loan and handling other financial transactions by computer are all relatively safe if the tips described above are regularly implemented. There is no guarantee that identity theft will never happen to an individual, as thieves are always inventing new and resourceful ways of stealing information. However, making an effort to stay up to date on these tips and others, as they become available, can save a lot of money and heartache.