Identity thieves come in all different forms. There’s the dumpster diver. There’s the shoulder surfer, who looks over your shoulder while you plug information into an ATM or your computer. There are wallet thieves. There are also the hackers, and they too work in a variety of ways. One of their favorite methods is a Trojan virus. These viruses aren’t built to shut down your computer or crash your software. Instead, these malicious viruses are built to steal your banking or credit card information the moment it’s entered into the computer.
You can get viruses through a variety of methods. Most people know by now not to download files that come from suspicious, unrecognized e-mail addresses or instant message requests. But there are dangers even so. Let’s say you find the perfect screen-saver. The screen-saver is completely free. Some people do this in order to increase their presence on the web—as a marketing tool. Other people do it so they can slip a virus in the moment you download the program.
The most common take on these viruses are keystroke loggers. These log every keystroke you make. Not only can this reveal your credit card and banking information, but it can also become an embarrassment when you realize the intimate conversation you had on IM last night might be available to a hacker’s eyes.
There are also programs that just sit, waiting, until you log into a banking site. While you interact with your banking site normally the virus works behind the scene, making transactions. You’ll never find out until all the fraudulent charges appear in your bank account.
These facts are the reason why good computer security is a cornerstone of identity theft protection. First, don’t download free programs from sources you neither know, nor trust. Second, set up a strong firewall and a secured network. Third, get anti-spyware software to detect threats in your system. But add the most up-to-date anti-virus software, too, as a virus is not quite the same as spyware. Finally, always use the most up-to-date versions of browsers; often new versions come out in order to close down holes that viruses and worms can crawl through.
The less random browsing you do the safer you’ll be. Trusted sites like BestBuy.com, Amazon.com, your bank and CNN.com are unlikely to pass along dangerous programs. Sites that are simply on the internet waiting for you to find them, however, sites put together by unknowns, could just be waiting to transfer your banking information all over the globe.