Sunday, February 05, 2006

Protecting Yourself From Identity Theft

Identity theft protection is an important topic now days. Unfortunately with the internet, credit cards, and e-commerce identity theft prevention is even more critical. There are a lot of smart people out there just looking for ways to rip you off. From stealing your credit card numbers to transferring your bank account to another account you need to make sure you are aware of the identity theft and all of the potential ways for it to occur.

  1. Password protection your first key to identity theft prevention: First of all one of the most important things to do to prevent identity theft is to have good passwords for your online activities. Many experts state that you should also change your passwords frequently to prevent identity theft. Strong password checklist Microsoft has the following recommendations to establishing a strong password. A good, strong password should meet all three of these criteria: A. Over eight characters in length. Short passwords are easier to crack than long passwords. B. Combines letters, numbers, and symbols, but not sequential or repeating combinations, such as "12345678," "222222," "abcdefg," or adjacent letters on your keyboard. Not common words with letters replaced by numbers or symbols, such as "M1cr0$0ft" or "P@ssw0rd". Unfortunately, hackers know these tricks, too. C. Easy for you to remember, but difficult for others to guess, and not your login name, your spouse's name, or your birthday. Not hard-to-remember. Random combinations of letters, numbers, and symbols that must be written down to be remembered, can be misplaced, or found by others and used. Not words found in the dictionary, in any language. Hackers use sophisticated tools that can rapidly guess passwords that are based on words in the dictionary, in a variety of languages, and using words spelled backwards. Microsoft even has a site the rates the security of your password. Give it a try it is a pretty cool little service. MS Password Checker
  2. Phishing scams a popular tool for identity theft: Phishing according to Wikipedia is defined as: In computing, phishing is a form of social engineering, characterized by attempts to fraudulently acquire sensitive information, such as passwords and credit card details, by masquerading as a trustworthy person or business in an apparently official electronic communication, such as an email or an instant message. The term phishing arises from the use of increasingly sophisticated lures to "fish" for users' financial information and passwords. I first started receiving phishing scams the referred to my Paypal and Ebay accounts. Please check out the Tips to protect your identity from phishing scams.
  3. Credit cards: Make sure you review your credit card statements in detail each month. Look for suspicious transactions that don't appear to be inline with you spending. Call the credit card company as soon as possible to determine if it is a fraudulent transaction. If you have a significant number of transactions make sure you cancel the card and immediately check your other cards for similar activity.
  4. Shredders: One of the key techniques of to steal your information is dumpster diving. With simple information obtained in your trash identity theft can be accomplished. Invest in a paper shredder to destroy trash that has personnel information on it. There are even shredders available now that can destroy a credit card.
  5. Social Security numbers: Protecting your identity is hard to do and your should always remember to not give out your social security number to organization or stores that you don't feel need the information. Reserve giving this number out only when you are taking out a loan or other key financial functions such as starting a new investment account.
  6. Computer viruses: Make sure you have the latest virus protection on your computer. Running without this type of protection can expose you to identity theft. Many hackers can install a virus onto your computer that will monitor your web history and record passwords and key strokes to help them steal your identity.
Other resources:

Tips to protect your identity from phishing scams.

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