These ten steps are somewhat “tongue in cheek” but even with the humor, each one of them easy to use tips to help you in creating a safer on line identity.
1. Get Turned On and Don’t Forget to Update and Renew Basic Protections
Many operating systems have a firewall, spam blocker or built in security features but users need to make sure they are turned on. You’ll also need to activate spam filters and security features provided by your ISP or e-mail account such as Yahoo, MSN or Google.
Spyware, spam and anti-virus programs should be updated regularly to target the latest threats. Use automated updates and renew whenever you are prompted to avoid a lapse in protection.
2. Shutting Down Your Computer Can Be a Real Turn Off for Identity Theft
Turning off your personal computer or at least disconnecting the internet access cable can reduce the risks of a malicious remote computer access and you’ll save energy too.
3. Like Public Bathrooms, Public Computers Can Be Risky
If you use a public computer such as those at libraries, airports or hotels, don’t make financial or personal transactions. These are not secure. Even if your are using your own computer on a public wireless network, make sure you only use secured Web pages for transactions. Just remember, “public access” can mean identity thieft access.
4. Downloads with Viruses and Spyware Can Really Get You Down
Free is so tempting and often games and utilities are useful and fun but many carry viruses and spyware. Only download from reputable sites. Tried and true, won’t make you blue.
5. Security Suites Can Offer Some Sweet Protection from Identity Theft
Consider a security program such as McAfee, Norton or F-Secure. Prices for security suites range from around $30.00 to $70.00 a year. While you may be duplicating some of the free security features already on your computer, security suites offer more protection against identity theft. According to Consumer Reports testing, free programs are worth considering but “the best of the free security software available online didn’t perform quite as well as the best for-pay programs, which offer the greatest margin of safety against any or all online threats.”
6. Credit Cards of Virtual Account Numbers Can Virtually Save Your Credit
Credit cards generally offer better protection for consumers that shop online but even better many credit issuing companies now offer virtual account numbers that can be used for a fixed amount or single source shopping. These are randomly generated numbers that mean your real account numbers are never put online.
7. Spelling Errors Can Cause More Than Embarrassment- They Can Cause Embezzlement
Typers should be ware because identity thieves often set up look-alike sites based on common misspellings of commonly used URLs. Your typing error can take you on a risky detour that can be a dead end for your credit.
8. Consider Disposable E-mail Accounts to Trash Spammers
You’ll always want to safely guard your original e-mail address from your ISP because you can’t change that one without terminating your account. However many providers offer additional or associate e-mail addresses that can be changed as desired. Consider using an alternate for shopping and if that e-mail address starts getting spammed, you can delete or change it.
9. Never RSVP to Identity Thieves
Regardless of how familiar or official an e-mail looks, never respond to e-mails requesting a user name, password, account number or Social Security number. Avoid clicking on hyperlinks in e-mails too. A hyperlink in an e-mail is easy to create and can be named anything. That doesn’t mean that is where the link will take you. Tricksters can make almost undetectable changes like a zero where the letter O should be and take you to unsecured pages. In the past two years alone, Consumer Reports estimates that a million customers have lost money to such scams.
10. Take a Sneak Peek at Your Accounts Regularly: Don’t Let Identity Theft Sneak Up on You
That stack of mail on your desks may hold surprises that aren’t birthday cards or a winning sweepstakes number. Review your hard copy statements as soon as you receive them for any suspicious charges or withdrawals. This includes medical bills and insurance claims statements as medical identity theft is on the rise.
One in four computer users have fallen victim to identity theft or some form of a cyber crime. Use these ten steps safeguard your identity, your credit and your peace of mind. Remember the slow and steady turtle that won the race? A few consistent and proactive steps can keep you ahead of the ever-sprinting identity thieves.