According to credit checking firm Experian identity theft is a booming online business. Their 2012 research reported a 300% rise in the illegal trade of personal information in just two years.
Shakespeare told us that our reputations were our most valuable possessions. Were he to be writing in the Internet age he’d probably add passwords and security questions to those ‘immortal parts’ of ourselves.
The Internet has changed almost every aspect of modern life, and criminals are as keen to be up to date as the rest of us. Running into a bank with a sawn off shotgun is so 20th Century, when the modern thief can sit phishing passwords from the comfort of their home office.
Once it’s been taken your identity can run riot in fraudulent hands. Experian’s research says that victims usually discover they’ve been hit when they are refused credit or contracts. An unfortunate 7% of victims learn the bad news when debt collectors come calling.
You can protect yourself online however. Much of this is common sense, but it’s worth remembering that security online is very much your responsibility.
The web is a fast and convenient way to do so many things but cutting corners on security can be costly.
Microsoft’s advice is as good as any.
1 - Use a strong, password that mixes letters, numbers and symbols, upper and lower case. If it’s easy for you to remember it’s correspondingly easy for crooks to crack.
2 – Use a different password for every account you have. When hackers made a password raid on an online Star Wars game you can bet they didn’t want free credit for their light sabres. Experian’s report found Britons averaged just five passwords across a typical 26 online accounts. Make sure losing a message board key won’t open the door to your bank account too.
3 – Don’t use sensitive accounts on shared PCs or in public places. High tech thieves might use key-logging software but a good old-fashioned look over your shoulder can reveal as much.
4 – Value your personal details. If someone calls or emails asking for personal details like your date of birth be sure you know who they are and what they want them for.
5 – Invest in virus protection and anti-spyware and malware programmes and keep them updated. Make sure your browser’s phishing filters are on.
6. Never enter personal details online until you’re sure you’re on the right page. Phishers have become very adept at faking sites so double check the URL before typing and beware clickable links in emails.
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