Protecting Yourself from Internet Identity Theft

The clever and malicious crime of identity theft has been a major issue for years now.  Just like many of our favorite products, services and pastimes, this act has moved to the internet.  Identity theft on the web has become rather common, a huge problem that seems to claim more and more victims each year. 

Internet identity theft differs from the common form in a variety of ways.  In the physical, someone may be victimized by having a wallet stolen that contains a driver license, credit and medical cards.  From there, the thief can use the stolen items to make fraudulent purchases or file insurance claims.  While the results are severe, internet identity theft has the potential to be much worse.  This is because most victims are completely blind to the crime, unaware that their sensitive information has been stolen.  By the time they find out, it is often too late. 

How Internet Identity Theft Happens        

The novice internet user may not be aware of this, but a computer collects and stores tons of personal information right on the hard drive.  This information may be stored in your browser cache, search history, or temporary internet files.  Though the purpose is to make for a better experience on the web, these files also contain information such as usernames, passwords, addresses, and credit card numbers. 

The information stored on a user's computer can be stolen in two ways: first, a thief can gain access by intercepting the data as it is being transmitted over an unsecured client, or they can install a malicious program that is designed to collect the information and deliver it back to them.  A perfect example would be a computer infection such as spyware. 

Avoiding Internet Identity Theft

Remain cautious - Make sure that your circle of friends include people that you trust.  Never leave your laptop or desktop computer alone with someone you suspect of any type of crime.  You should also never give away personal information to strangers on the web contacting you through email or any sites with no details of a privacy policy. 

No cookies - By disabling the automatic cookie function in your web browser, personal details such as login and credit card information will not be stored on your hard drive.  If you happen to create cookie files, be sure to delete them frequently.   

Cache and Temporary Internet Files - The web browser cache and folders for your temporary internet files will also store a lot of sensitive information.  You should frequently clear out the cache and delete those temporary files to limit a hacker's ability. 

Use a Firewall - Operating systems, such as newer versions of Mac OS, come equipped with Firewall applications.  Unfortunately, these default programs are not always strong enough to fend off intruders.  Quality Firewall applications are available through reputable companies ,such as McAfee and Norton.

Monitor Internet Use - The last tip is very simple - if you are not using the internet, there is no need to be connected.  Without an internet connection, a hacker will not be able to gain remote access or control to your computer.   

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