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September 2012

Protecting Yourself From Identity Theft Online

It's almost unavoidable: if you search the Internet, you are asked to share personal information.

Protecting yourself against identity theft

For example, want to qualify for a special giveaway or promotional discount? Simply submit your name, address to sign up. You're excited about the offer, but is it safe? Unfortunately, many find out the hard way, as identity theft affects millions every year. While no single tactic can guarantee complete security from identity theft, doing the following will help reduce the odds that you will become a victim of identity theft or fraud.

  • Look at a web site's privacy policy. How will they protect or use your information? Will they share it with other companies? As a rule, before you submit information to any web site, make sure any options to receive offers from partners or other third parties are unchecked.

  • Make sure the web site encrypts its information. Encrypted information can only be read by the intended recipient(s). Secure sites usually have web addresses that begin with "https" rather than "http" and will display a lock icon on the right-hand site of the address bar. Note: Email is not encrypted, and should not be used to transmit confidential data, such as usernames, passwords or credit card information.

  • Try to avoid using debit cards when making online purchases. If an identity thief gains access through your debit card, they have access to the attached bank account. Instead, use a credit card, as most offer some level of protection against identity theft, which can help limit your financial exposure.

  • Use a single credit card for online purchases. Doing this can limit the opportunities for an identity thief to gain access to your information, and leave only a single card vulnerable as a potential point of entry to your information as opposed to multiple ones.

  • Vary your passwords on different sites, and do not allow them to be stored with the actual web site. If you use a universal password for multiple online accounts, a hacker can easily access all of your accounts. Also, if you are asked whether you would like to store your information for future purchases, you should decline. Allowing a web site to store your password leaves you vulnerable if that web site is hacked.

Be aware of phishing scams

Familiarize yourself with phishing scams and techniques, which are used to trick you into divulging your account information. Online banking sites, along with companies like Paypal, EBay and Amazon are just a few of the sites that have proven popular vehicles to try and access customer information. For example, if you receive an e-mail about a "problem" with your account from your bank or another financial institution, do not click any links or enter any passwords. Your safest bet is to go to the that company's web site and see if there are any problems listed or notifications posted. If you do not see anything listed on the site related to the email you received, notify them about this attempted fraud.

It's your identity - Protect it

The increase of online transactions has unfortunately brought with it an increase in vulnerability. Ultimately, we can minimize our risks but not eliminate them. Be aware of things like "easy credit" offers, "friend requests" from unknown people or a site that is unsecured. Fighting identity theft takes a concentrated effort by individuals, businesses and even governments, as criminals increasingly use social media, the Internet, smartphones, and other digital devices to victimize people. Remember, if an offer sounds too good to be true, it usually is.

Please note: This information is of a general nature for educational purposes only. It must not be taken as advice and does not signify an endorsement. 21st Century Insurance is not responsible for any injuries or loss incurred.

Sources: http://www.phishing.org; www.pcmag.com; www.govtech.com;

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