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How to Protect Yourself from Electronic Identity and Information Thieves

By Amanda Randell
Published: Friday, June 18th, 2010

The internet is fast way to conduct business transactions and the like, but it is also very risky and is an almost very sure way of losing your personal information to the hands of criminals. No wonder it is always advisable to do your transactions in person. Nevertheless, doing your transactions online is something that cannot be avoided, and so one must take the best precautions so as not to endanger his or her information.

Before you enter your information such as your credit card or ATM number on screen, contact the website’s company first. Call them and confirm if such website exists in the first place, and if it does, inquire if such information is really required. Also look for or inquire about the privacy policies of the website. Once your doubts are appeased, only then must you proceed.

Moreover, you must be wary of websites asking too much information. Most legal websites nowadays recognize the need and importance of identity theft protection and prevention, and hence ask as minimal as information as possible. You should be extremely doubtful of websites requiring seemingly unnecessary information. Legal and official looking emails asking for personal information have also been recently circulating through people’s websites. Never reply to these emails with your information no matter how official they may look like. The real companies never ask for such info through email.

Guard your online transactions by using a secure browser. This ensures that the information you will be entering will not be stolen or saved for use by other people. You can find out if the browser is secure by obtaining the latest version.

Install your laptop or PC with anti-virus and anti-phishing software, and keep it up updated, ideally every week. This is to prevent hackers from accessing your hard drive, compromising your documents and information. Set up your Firewall for surer protection. Normally, the default set-up is for Firewall to be turned on. If it is not, go to your Control Panel and adjust your computer settings to turn it on.

Always use strong passwords – for switching on your computer, for important documents, for your email, and for all your internet accounts which contains any personal information. Using your mother’s maiden name may have been seen to be a very strong password, but it is no longer effective and advisable nowadays. Use passwords which are very personal – it lessens the possibility of the criminal guessing it. Also, when entering your passwords in your online accounts. Never save them or approve the “save password” prompts that some sites give.

Avoid storing personal information in your laptop or other electronic gadget. In the event that it is stolen, you are as good as doomed if all the information you have is in it. And before finally disposing of your computers and gadgets, delete all your files. Reformatting it may seem enough, but the reality is that reformatted hardware could still be accessed. Better overwrite the entire hard drive.

Preventing identity theft may seem to be additional effort, but in the long run, you’d be glad you did all these. Victims can always attest to how sorry they were for not being more careful. It is indeed better to be safe than sorry.

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