Special Guest Author Judd Seida: Online Identity Survival Tips
According the Federal Bureau of Investigation, “Identity theft involves the misuse of another individual’s personal identifying information for fraudulent purposes. It is almost always committed to facilitate other crimes, such as credit card fraud, mortgage fraud, and check fraud. Personal identifying information, such as name, Social Security number, date of birth and bank account number is extremely valuable to an identity thief. With relatively little effort, an identity thief can use this information to take over existing credit accounts, create new accounts in the victim’s name or even evade law enforcement after the commission of a violent crime. Identity thieves also sell personal information online to the highest bidder, often resulting in the stolen information being used by a number of different perpetrators. Identity theft can be very difficult for consumers to deal with, as they often do not know they have been defrauded until they are denied credit or receive a call from a creditor seeking payment for a debt incurred in their name.”
“Although not a new crime, identity theft has evolved into a serious and pervasive threat to consumers and the financial services industry alike. Estimates vary on the true impact of the problem, but law enforcement and consumer advocacy groups agree that financial institutions lose billions of dollars each year to identity theft and consumers face additional hardships, ranging from financial loss to time spent trying to undo the harm caused to their credit records and other aspects of their lives. Identity theft also puts significant demands on law enforcement, as federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies and prosecutors grapple with venue issues and limited resources, which can complicate their efforts to effectively deal with the problem.”
Below are some simple, yet effective ways for you to help protect your online identity.
Simple Advice for Protecting Your Online Identity
- Know The User Policy. Most websites that ask you to register, apply for, or set up an account have a policy dedicated to how they utilize your information. Before doing anything, read the policy. In order to move forward with an account registration you really need to see a statement such as, “we will not sell, rent, or otherwise share your personally identifiable information with any other third party.”
- Pay Attention to Your U.S. Mail. Receiving mail that notifies you of a previously unknown new membership, account, or subscription are indicators that your information may have been used without your permission. Also, banking and financial institutions typically notify customers of email phishing or online scams via U.S. Mail. Lastly, if you receive frequent notices of late or non-payment of bills placed in your mailbox for collection, there may be an issue with mail theft that needs to be addressed.
- Destroy New Account Applications. Destroy unwanted applications for credit cards, loans, subscriptions, and documents that contain your personal name and important account numbers. Information on these types of documents serves as a foundation for identity theft.
- Change Account Passwords. Every 6 months to a year you should consider changing the login access to your accounts. Yes, this is an arduous task that no one likes doing. However, altering your account access will help to mitigate the risk of your identity being stolen.
- Pull A Free Credit Report. If you have a feeling that something is just not right with one of your accounts, go ahead and pull a free credit report. Doing so can help verify what data the major credit bureaus possess versus the credit and loan accounts that you know you have personally established. Credit experts typically suggest performing this on an annual basis so that you limit the number of credit inquiries on your personal credit score.
- Password Storage. The second best secret to having a good password is knowing where to find it. Some people record their usernames and passwords on paper while others prefer to use software that encrypts usernames and passwords. Avoid using your active email account to store and save passwords because that type of information may be accessible through other applications that you use such as a smartphone or social networking website.
- Limit Account Sharing and Synching. These days most people have several online accounts that include email, social networking websites, bank accounts, and more. Synching all of your online accounts with a variety of email accounts can create access points for online identity theft. Instead, consider using only one email account for these types of activities.
- Have Good Computer Anti-Virus Protection. Being able to protect the information that is stored and utilized on your personal computer is extremely important. Check out the top 10 anti-virus softwares for 2012.
- Always Use a Secure Server for Online Transactions. Being able to see that your online credit card transactions are secure is extremely important to ensuring the protection of your identity. Depending upon the browser you are using, you will want to look for a lock icon in the lower part of your browser to help indicate that you are using a secure website.
- Personal Information You Use. Avoid giving out information such as your birthdate, marital status, education level or other personal information.
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