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8 Things You Can Do To Prevent Identity Theft

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission estimates that more than 10 million people were victims of identity fraud in 2009, which according to Javelin Strategy and Research, amounted to $54 billion stolen by identity thieves.* Sadly, those numbers will only go up as the data from 2010 and 2011 is collected.

Generally I skip over the first paragraph in any email, but that opening paragraph got my attention in a recent email from iPower. They had 8 suggestions for safeguarding against possible identity theft. Let me summarize the key points:

8 Things You Can Do To Prevent Identity Theft

  1. Enroll All Your Domains in Domain Privacy“Domain privacy” may actually be a misnomer — it’s not the domain itself that’s in need of protection; it’s your personal information that’s publicly available whenever someone does a “whois” lookup online. Harvesting “whois” information is an easy way for identity thieves to impersonate you.
  2. Protect Yourself Against SpywareSpyware is malware downloaded to your computer or website, without your knowledge or consent, that runs in the background and collects information about you:Make sure whatever anti-virus program you’re running on your personal computers includes spyware protection, as well. Some companies, such as Lavasoft or STOPzilla, will offer a basic anti-spyware service for free, while charging for advanced protection.
  3. Use Caution When Entering Information OnlineWhen providing personal or financial information online, be certain that you have a secure connection. The URL in the address bar should change from “http” to “https” or “shttp.” A closed padlock symbol also often indicates that the connection is secure. (If you want to make your own website secure in this way, you may want to look into purchasing an SSL certificate.) Read a previous blog post about HTTPS on Twitter and Facebook.
  4. Create Strong PasswordsWe realize that generating strong passwords, not to mention keeping track of them all, can be a hassle, but it’s critical that you have strong passwords for every site you use. There are a number of blog posts here on the site about this topic, but I like this password blog post the best.
  5. Use Discretion When Sharing InformationUse discretion when updating social media websites. Even if you limit the number of people who have access to your profile, tweets, etc., keep in mind that the information is still published online and can be copied and pasted elsewhere. If anyone asks you for personal information, make sure they are who they claim to be and that there is a legitimate reason for the request.
  6. Stop Unsolicited, “Pre-Approved” Credit OffersOpt out of pre-screened credit/insurance offers to prevent potential thieves from intercepting and accepting the offers in your name. Opting out doesn’t affect your eligibility for credit or insurance; visit www.OptOutPrescreen.com for more information.You should also limit the amount of unsolicited emails you receive by customizing your spam filter settings.
  7. Shred Confidential InformationWhen disposing of papers with account numbers or other identifying information, shred them. This includes convenience checks that come with your credit card statement, as well as unsolicited credit card offers. Even a cheap $15 shredder from WalMart will do the job.
  8. Remain Vigilant: Review Your Accounts RegularlyMonitor your accounts online frequently, so you can discover potential issues without having to wait for bills or statements to come by mail. You also may want to check out MyIDScore.com; it’s a free service that reviews how likely it is your identity is being misused and provides ways you can reduce that risk.

Additional Online Identity Resources:

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