Have you ever received an urgent email asking for confidential financial or personal information? If so, you may be one of millions of Americans who has experienced phishing emails. Phishing emails are one of many tactics used by scammers to commit online identity theft. Once scammers have your Social Security number, bank account information and other personal details, they are free to go on incredibly damaging spending sprees. However, there are ways to protect yourself from online identity theft.
Do not respond to phishing emails: Phishing emails often have dead giveaways, such as asking for banking, Social Security, address or login ID information. Dedicated scammers will create copycat websites, domain names or even fake companies to trick users into coughing up vital information. Companies, HR departments and other authorities will not ask for these details to be sent over email, as it could carry risks to consumers or employees.
Do not use simple passwords: Setting your password as ‘password’ or ‘12345’ is asking for trouble. Avoid using birthdays, phone numbers or Social Security numbers as passwords. Never use the same passwords for multiple purposes. The best passwords contain capital letters, numbers, symbols and are more than 10 characters long. Do not forget to set a password for your router!
Do not throw out old computers ‘as is’: If you are replacing an old computer or device, scrub the hard drive before throwing it out. Many of us use our computers to do our taxes or make online payments. Computers store this information in browsers or programs like Quicken. Would you throw out your tax documents or bank statements without shredding them first? We hope not. The same concept applies in this situation.
Do not neglect antivirus software, firewalls and adblockers: The more layers of security you set up between scammers and your personal information, the better. Scammers can use scripts that force browsers to install malware, such as keyloggers, to steal passwords. Antivirus software can block and quarantine malware or spyware. Some adblockers can prevent harmful scripts from running or installing malware while browsing the internet.
Online Security and Avoiding Identity Theft Can Have a Steep Learning Curve
These suggestions are by no means a comprehensive list of how to online avoid identity theft, but they can reduce the chances you will fall victim to scammers. For example, people knowledgeable about network security know to avoid putting financial information into websites without SSL certificates (websites that use ‘https’ in the address). Websites that use https in the address can block third parties from viewing confidential financial information.
The point we are trying to make is that good network security can have a steep learning curve. It is a subject worth learning because online identity theft can cause significant damage to your finances, credit score and life.
The Kansas City bankruptcy attorneys at The Sader Law Firm wish to help you understand the risks associated with predatory lending, identity theft and other scams.