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IDENTITY THEFT PREVENTION GUIDE

This guide's sole purpose is to explain many topics to you so that you can stay safe, you may want to bookmark this and digest it slowly. It is written to be comprehensive.

Educate yourself with identity theft on the Internet

    Identity Theft Statistics
     
  • 9,000,000+ ID Theft victims last year
  • $50 billion cost to businesses and victims annually
  • 28% identity theft committed by credit card fraud
  • 635,000 fraud and ID theft complaints made to the Federal Trade Commission in 2004
  • 5th consecutive year that identity theft has been the top consumer complaint reported to the FTC
  • 61% of the victims did not notify the police

    Sources: Federal Trade Commission,
    California Department of Consumer Affairs
This is a rapidly growing threat, as the Internet continues to grow. There is 6 billion people on the planet, and there are about 1 billion people now using the Internet.

The techniques used to steal people's identity are continually evolving, so unfortunately there is not any 1 silver bullet to keep you 100% protected. You must be alert / educated to what is going on, that's the best way to stay safe. Here I have done lots of research on the Internet and used many of these tools listed below myself that will combined with your understanding from this guide keep you out of harms way.

If you are inexperienced with the threats on the Internet, then I recommend you bookmark this page and re-visit here to fully absorb all the information here, or print it out, and take it with you. The information is free, and centralized in 1 location for your benefit. The objective is to raise awareness BEFORE you become victim. As the saying goes:

 
...an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

 
 

Never Click on Hyperlinks within emails

Scammers obfuscate links into emails to appear like legitimate websites when they are really not. Never click a link from an email. Always go to them directly by typing their website into your web browser.

Remember, deception is this type of individuals most powerful weapon. They make their living off deception, they're going to try and look as official as possible, so don't let them scare you into giving up any personal information, fear is the tool most commonly used to drive consumers into their trap.

Keep in mind when it comes to emails, most real companies will address you by your real name, not a generic "Dear verified member" or the equivalent. This is one of the most simple and effective ways to spot a scam from a mile away which requires no technical knowledge whatsoever!


Use Anti-Virus Software

Anti-virus software can protect you against worms and trojans before they're even ran on your computer. It's important to make sure your anti-virus software is kept up to date with the vendor to stay current with the latest threats.

If your not running a firewall (explained below), and someone manages to exploit your computer and start loading your computer up with trojans viruses and worms, a anti-virus program such as this will stop them before they are permitted to be ran on your computer.

Anti-Spyware Tools



Use a Personal Firewall

A firewall is a piece of software that gives you complete control over what communication your computer sends and receives. This way no hidden communication is permitted to happen whatsoever without your expressed permission.

Firewalls makes it easy to spot when your computer is infected with a trojan, even if it's a new strain that none of the anti-virus programs you may be running may not yet recognize (remember new viruses come out every day). Firewalls will alert you, and give you the chance to deny any program from connecting out to the Internet, whether hidden, or not. This in turn can protect your identity, as well as alert you that something is happening that should not be.

A firewall can also block unauthorized incoming traffic and malicious individuals scanning for exploitable computers to hack into your computer, where they may try to plant their malicious software that allows them to steal your personal information and move onto the next guy. Firewalls can also be useful if your computer is not kept up to date with the latest security patches from vendors.

Always look for "https" and a padlock on sites that request personal info

This is another important and simple thing you can check without technical knowledge.

Website addresses that start with https:// and have a padlock icon indicate your sensitive data is protected from interception by a 3rd party.

Always look for these two items on websites when submitting personal and confidential information. A website without these items is definitely not secure, and most likely not legitimate.

 
2 ways to check for secured communication
Figure 1:
Checking for https://
http:// = insecure
https:// = secured
 
Figure 2:
Checking for padlock in bottom right corner of web browser


Check Your Credit Report

If you have responded to a fraudulent email or submitted any personal info to a fraudulent website, you should check your credit report to make sure you are not a victim of identity theft.

I'm sorry to say identity theft doesn't stop there. Some emails contain viruses that can transmit your personal information over the Internet as well, if you've tried to open any suspicious attachments, or have not kept your computer up to date with the latest patches, then listen carefully. Stealing of your personal info can happen while you are accessing a legitimate website if you are infected with a virus/trojan through keystroke logging. A firewall would prevent a program of this type from being able to transmit this type of data over the Internet.


Keep your software up to date

New bugs and exploits hackers can use to gain access to your system and personal files are being discovered all the time in modern computer operating systems, especially this day in age as more and more inexperienced computer users are introduced to the Internet. As new software is written, new bugs are introduced. It is essential that you keep your software up to date and current with the latest versions available as possible. We highly recommend you enable 'auto-updates' on your computer.


Use Spam Filtering

One study concludes that 82% of all email sent is SPAM! SPAM is not only time consuming, but costs money. SPAM is also the delivery method for many other malicious types of programs and attachments too.

Spam Arrest - Put a stop to spam, and malicious email viruses.

Spam Arrest is very easy to use, and brings spam to a halt. You don't have to install any software. You run your mail through it's service, and it will begin working for you instantly. Spam Arrest has a 30 day free trial so you can check out how useful it is, and draw your own conclusion. Check it out this hot service's offerings.

It's a simple yet extremely effective concept requiring users to do a 1 time verification that they are a real person before they are allowed to send you email. Don't worry, your mail won't be lost either, it's easy to perfect your lists of who is allowed to send you mail. You can still receive any emails from mailing lists or company mailings.

Spam Shield allows you to not get unwanted spam without filtering your mail through another service. It is an application which runs on your computer.

Spam Arrest - Put a stop to spam, and malicious email viruses.

Keep your computer clean from malicious software

Spyware and Adware allow companies to monitor your computer usage, and force advertisements on you to try and make money off of you. These guys will usually be very sneaky on how they get these programs onto your computer. Even "experts" can be surprised to find that they have fallen victim to the will of these malicious acts. The Internet never sleeps, and is continually advancing.

The most common place to acquire these dangerous programs, is through emails, and peer to peer file sharing networks.

It's also possible to get infected due to not keeping your computer up to date with the latest security updates. Hackers are constantly scanning the Internet for un-updated/unpatched computers to hack into, and install this software. New bugs come out all the time, it is imperative you stay up to date.

Many of these guys do this for a living, literally survive off unsuspecting users! If you have adware/spyware installed on your computer via this method, there is MUCH more dangerous things hackers can be doing with your computer, such as identity theft, logging your passwords to sensitive sites, even commanding your computer to attack other computers (blackmailing companies / obliterating internet-business competition). This is stepping beyond the line of trying to make a dollar off you, and outright stealing or using your computer to commit crime.

If your computer is used in this method, you are at risk for identity theft, and also as a catalyst for acts of computer crime to be committed from your computer. This is not a scare tactic by any means, I see this all the time. If you catch someone doing this by taking the proper precautions in this guide, it is certainly punishable by law. If your interested in a success story, here's an article for you:
 

If you've downloaded from the Internet and noticed your now getting annoying pop up ads, this definitely sounds like you are infected with spyware or adware, especially if you notice it happening when you are not actively surfing. Yes I too have fallen victim to this.

These programs will scan your computer for free:

Anti-Spyware Tools

 

For eBay and Paypal scams

Ebay spoofs can be forwarded to spoof@ebay.com
Paypal spoofs can be forwarded to spoof@paypal.com

These organizations DO check these email accounts. We highly recommend you forward your emails to these common targeted companies to the above appropriate addresses every time, even if you know without a doubt the email is a scam. Informing them helps them get the scammer shut down, and perhaps can save someone else from getting ripped off.

Also remember, Paypal/eBay and many others will always use your real name when they send you an email, nothing like Dear Verified Member or the equivalent.

For more information on how to protect yourself in the future from these types of scams, you may find this site of use:

http://pages.ebay.com/education/spooftutorial/index.html

Report spoof sites, get them shut down at their source!

This is from eBay: To help our members better protect themselves from spoof Web sites, we have developed a new feature for the eBay Toolbar called "Account Guard." Account Guard includes an indicator of when you are on an eBay or PayPal Website, buttons to report fake eBay Websites, and a password notification feature that warns you when you may be entering your eBay password into an unverified site. To learn more about the eBay Toolbar with Account Guard, open a new browser and type www.ebay.com/ebay_toolbar into the address bar. Note that eBay will never send you an email that includes a download as an attachment or a link that goes to a page with a download.


If in doubt, Google it!

If you think you have received a fraudulent email, you can usually do a quick Google search with a few key words from the email and many times, find a reference to the email.