Identity Theft Protection & Prevention: Prevent ID Internet Fraud

Online identity theft is a serious crime that can clean out your life savings

and leave you with a damaged credit history that may take years to repair.

In the interim, obtaining loans, renting apartments, and even applying

for work can become increasingly difficult. Here is what you can do to

protect yourself:

Internet and computer safeguards:

Before you shop online, install and Update spyware and virus protection

utilities to prevent a worm, virus or spyware program from sending out

files or other stored information from your computer. Install a firewall

on your home computer to prevent hackers from obtaining personal identifying

and financial data from your hard drive. Encrypt sensitive files.

Before discarding your computer, use a strong “wipe” utility to remove

all recoverable data.

Find Out About the Company

If you are unfamiliar with the company, research it before buying from

them. If you decide to purchase something from an unknown retailer, start

out with an inexpensive test order to see if the company comes through.

Trustworthy companies advertise their real business address and phone

number, or customer service line. See if they are listed on the Internet

yellow pages.

Call the company directly to determine if their business is genuine.

Find out how the merchant handles returns.

Read their Privacy Policy

Reputable e-commerce sites should offer a Privacy Policy explaining

how your personal information may be shared with third parties. To prevent

unwanted e-mail (“spam”), junk mail, or phone calls, read their privacy

policies before submitting your personal information.

Verify the Web Site Address

Cyber-criminals have been known to create counterfeit sites that look

like authentic, well-established companies. Check the website address at

the top of the screen, when you first visit an online store and check if

it is the same as the real company’s.

Shop on Secured Transaction Protected Sites

A secure site uses encryption technology to transfer information from

your computer to the online merchant’s computer. There are a couple of

ways to discern whether a site is secure.

At the time of entering personal credit card information, look at

the address bar to see https://. The “s” after “http” indicates secure.

Often, you will not see the “s” until time of check out.

Another way to know if a web site is secure is to look for a closed

padlock displayed at the bottom of your screen. If that lock is open, you

should assume it is not a secure site. Some browsers indicate a secure

site with an unbroken key.

Shop in the USA

By shopping in the U.S., you are protected by both federal and state

consumer laws. Consumer protection is often unavailable in other countries.

Seal of Approval

For peace of mind, find out if the online store voluntarily belongs

to a seal-of-approval program that sets privacy-related guidelines; such

as, the Better Business Bureau Online (www.bbbonline.org)

or TRUSTe (www.truste.org).

Credit Cards VS. Debit Cards, Cash VS. Checks

Because of the federal Fair Credit Billing Act, credit cards are the

safest way to shop online. Under this law you have the right to withhold

payments on disputed charges. It is good practice to use one credit card

when purchasing online to more readily track fraudulent charges.

Personal checks make you susceptible to bank fraud. Money orders may

prevent this but do not offer additional protection in the event of problems

with your order.

Use an actual credit card, not an ATM debit or check card. As with checks,

an ATM card may open your personal banking information to criminals. Debit

cards are not protected to the same extent as credit cards. If you have

to use a debit card, consider using one with a limited balance that you

use solely for online purchases.

Keep Your Password Private

Reputable e-commerce sites may require the shopper to log-in by creating

a username and a password before placing or viewing an order. Never reveal

your password to anyone. When selecting a password, do not use commonly

known information, such as your birth date, or driver’s license number.

Do not reuse the same password for other sites. A good password has at

least eight characters and includes both letters and numbers.

Do NOT Give Out Your Social Security Number

There is no reason for any merchant to ask for your Social Security

number. It is not a requirement for purchasing online.

Disclose as Little Information as Possible

Merchants often try to obtain more information about you than necessary.

They may want to know your leisurely activities, income or interests. This

information may be used for marketing purposes and can lead to “spam”,

junk mail and telemarketers.

Only answer questions you deem are required to process your order. Often,

required questions will be marked with an asterisk (*).

Print a Hard Copy of Your Order

After placing an order, you should be directed to a confirmation page

that reviews your entire order along with customer service information

and a confirmation number. Keep it for your records for at least the period

covered by the return/warranty policy.

Often you will also receive a confirmation e-mail. Be sure to keep it

in your inbox along with any other correspondence until you are satisfied

with your purchase.

For more on Identity Theft, vist SpyFind’s ID Theft Center,

http://www.spyfind.com/credit/identity_theft.html.

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