Most homes access the internet through at least one computer and an increasing number of homes have multiple computers. These connections allow you and your family to pay bills, shop, stay in touch with friends and family, play online games, download favorite music and much more.
The downside to all this “connectivity” is that it opens the door for online identity theft. Any online communication, whether it’s posting on Facebook, email, instant messaging, or simply surfing the web, increases your risk. There are numerous online threats waiting to steal or con you out of your personal information. Taking a few simple precautions can drastically reduce the chances online identity thieves can access your private information. Today we’ll begin a series on “How To Secure Your Online Presence”.
You can improve your online security by:
- Installing the right software to protect your computer.
- Avoiding software that can harm your computer
- Protecting your network
- Using strong passwords
- Practicing safe email habits
- Shopping online with care
- Familiarizing yourself with known scams
We’ll go into each of these categories as we begin our series but probably the greatest protection is the eye of experience. A majority of the online fraud occurs due to simple consumer negligence and ignorance. If you’re going to have an online presence: online banking, social networking, online gaming, you must be security conscious. Don’t leave sensitive information where everybody can see it.
The internet today can be compared to the lawless Wild West, with a worldwide society society of underground crime rings profiting from online theft. Cybercrime, which includes a broad rantge of offenese including viruses, bots, and phishing scams, is one of the fastest growing crimes in the worls. Fraudsters operate in a digital world that’s largely beyond the reach of government and law enforcement agencies.
Online identity thieves use technical knowledge, an understanding of online commerce, internet security, and combine them with age old scams to trick online users. They may not go through your mail or break into your own like traditional identity thieves but the goal is the same-to steal your personal information for their own amusement and profit.
Online identity theft is not only being perpetrated by individual scammers, but also by large rings, many of which make money by selling your sensitive information on underground websites. One of the most notorious was Shadowcrew.com, an online marketplace with over 4,000 members. Before the Secret Service brought the site down and arrested many of its members, the site had trafficked in over 1.5 million stolen credit card numbers and stole over $4 million dollars.
Today’s virtual identity thief could be the shy geek next door or a highly skilled criminal mastermind. Chances are, you’ll never find out. But these high tech criminals have one thing in common with their traditional brothers, they like to target easy marks. If you understand how they work and how to protect yourself, you can safely use the technologies they target without having your identity stolen.