December 5, 2015

How to Avoid ID Theft While Browsing the Internet

The Internet has become an integral tool in our daily lives.  People use it to buy, to sell, to pay bills, and to receive payments.  People often manage multiple accounts on the Internet and enter sensitive personal information into their computers each and every day.  You’ll need to exercise caution on the Internet if you want to avoid opening yourself up to threats.

Avoid Spyware and Malware

Spyware and malware are designed to steal your information, and they make it onto your computer in a variety of ways.  Sometimes, these are attached to sites that you visit, and sometimes they get into your computer through downloads either sent to your e-mail or IM.  While you can’t simply look at a website to find out whether or not it is a spyware site, you can protect yourself by installing antivirus software, a good firewall, and anti-spyware software.  In addition, you should avoid any links or downloads that come from sources you don’t trust or know.  Be leery of links you find on places like Craigslist, too: many people post Craigslist ads whose only goals are to steer people to sites designed to steel information.

Go Phish

You can be safer by visiting a handful of routine, trusted sites.  You can also be safer by double-checking for signs of phishing when you arrive at a site.  Phishing is a different animal from spyware or malware.  Phishing places up a fake site meant to mirror or mimic one a legitimate site, such as your bank.  When you enter your information you’ve handed the thieves everything they need to go over to your real bank and clean you out.  Some financial sites have taken extra steps to help combat this problem, but you should always be very sure you’re at the place you intended to go.

Watch that Password

Passwords should be constructed in specific ways to help defeat hackers.  You should have both uppercase letters and lowercase.  You should include numbers and punctuation marks as well.  Your password needs to be at least 8 characters long, and you need to make very sure it’s not related to any personal information.  Long passwords can be a pain if you forget them, but that just means they’re a pain for the identity thieves to guess, too.

Watch Out, WiFi

WiFi is great, but an unsecured WiFi connection is a wide open door to identity thieves.  If your personal, home WiFi isn’t secured you need to take care of that detail right away; call your WiFi company if you’re having trouble.  When you’re at public places, such as airports and coffee shops, restrict your browsing to sites where you will not be entering your personal information.  There are ID thieves who can use an unsecured WiFi connection to see every single thing you do, so be aware of this when you’re out in public and take the appropriate precautions.

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