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A Beginners Guide to Protecting Yourself Online: Identity Theft and Email Safety

A Beginners Guide to Protecting Yourself Online: Identity Theft and Email Safety

A common fear among computer users when doing anything online is keeping your personal information safe from hackers who might get it and ruin your credit, finances and make your life difficult with one swipe of a credit card. How do you best go about this? It's really easy!

A common tactic many hackers will use to obtain your personal credentials like banking information and passwords to your email accounts is phishing

Phishing uses a fake page that 9 times out of 10 will look very convincing except for a few small flaws. Don't be fooled by this! Always check to make sure the website you are on is the actual website you want to go to! That is the easiest way to protect yourself and your information when online.

Various examples of phishing websites and more helpful tips can be found here.

Usually these types of attacks come in the form of emails that look official such as “administrator@bank0famerica.com”. Notice the “0” there? No? That's what hackers are counting on!

Institutions like your bank or Paypal, anywhere that involves your personal information and/or a transaction will not ask for your personal information via email because even they can not guarantee the safety of it in transit unless it is heavily encrypted which most email providers will not do. So it is safe to assume these types of requests are fraudulent

Another quick and easy way to make sure your identity and information is kept safe online resides in your address bar. Have you ever gone to purchase something and looked at the address you are redirected to upon checking out and finalizing your purchase?

Next time you go to purchase that new pair of shoes you just simply MUST have (or in my case maybe that awesome new PC part ;)) take a look. You will usually find at most reputable online retailers like Amazon, Ebay or Newegg and institutions like Paypal, your bank or government sites, the website address will change from a regular http which stands for Hyper Text Transfer Protocol to https which stands for Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Over Secure.

The https prefix on a URL ensures that your personal information is being encrypted when communicating between your computer and the server processing your transaction. This severely hampers the ability of someone trying to get at this information to actually succeed.

If you are already a victim of identity theft it can be life ruining but, there are ways to fight back and get your finances and life back on track.

In the United States:

If you believe you’ve been scammed, file your complaint at Federal Trade Commission

If you receive spam that is phishing for information, forward it to spam@uce.gov

In the United Kingdom:

If you believe you’ve been scammed or you receive spam that is phishing for information, call Consumer Direct on: 08454 04 05 06

In another country?

Usually the government has a site dedicated to such things. Searching the Google site for your country, for example google.au for terms like “phishing” will usually yield these results.

Some more helpful tips:

  • Do not reply to any e-mail asking to verify your personal data. You will find that legitimate vendors and merchants do not send such requests via e-mail.
  • Contact your merchant right away to ask for clarification of such e-mails. (This will also make them more aware of the range of such problems.)
  • Never divulge information, such as passwords and credit card, social security, and bank account numbers, to anyone making contact with you. Only give such information when you initiate a service call, and only do so with trusted sources and where appropriate.
  • Use anti-virus software and/or firewalls on every computer you own/use. Remember that children are easy prey to the ‘just click here’ tactic.
  • Stay up to date with current scams and always report suspicious activity.

Following these easy steps and simply watching where you go on the Internet is the best way to protect yourself out there in Cyberspace!

If you yourself are the victim of identity theft you might wish to review the following informative links:

Identity Theft Victims Guide - What to do

What Should I Do If I've Become A Victim Of Identity Theft?

How Do I Handle Possible Identify Theft, Internet Fraud and CC Fraud?

Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3): Filing a Complaint
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