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Saturday, February 21, 2009

Simple Steps to Avoid Becoming a Victim of Online Identity Theft

By Curtis Adams

The world wide web has made life so easy for most people nowadays. You can access unlimited information, communicate with people anywhere in the world, and send and receive important documents. But there's a downside to all this convenience. Thieves are also taking advantage of the easy availability of information by accessing your private data.

Many people these days keep a lot of sensitive information stored on their PDAs, laptops and desktop computers. This often includes data such as banking and credit card information along with the relevant passwords. The amount of damage that can be done to your credit can be devastating if a criminal is able to get his hands on your electronic data. Another way to grab the information he wants is to hack into your computer from a distance and dig out any useful information.

Here are some tips for identity theft protection that might help you to avoid this disastrous situation.

1) Set up your computer so that it requires a password in order to access any files. This includes your laptop and PDA as well.

2) Change your computer settings so it doesn't automatically remember your passwords. It might be convenient to have your computer instantly enter passwords for all your accounts. However, identity thieves will find it just as convenient to access your financial accounts.

3) On a regular basis, change your passwords.

4) Use antivirus software, and make sure it's always running. These programs can keep hackers from infiltrating your system and stealing your information.

5) Another area in which you should use caution is with regard to file sharing. If your computer is set up to allow the transfer of information between two computers, you're more vulnerable to hacking.

6) Phishing is among the fastest growing methods of illegally collecting confidential information. Typically, you will receive an email that appears to be sent by a legitimate organization. Once you click on the link, you will be asked to verify your password. This information is then captured and used to take over your identity.

In response to the increased problem of identity theft, many institutions now offer identity theft insurance. These policies typically cover any expenses you incur related to the theft of your identity. Postage, the cost of phone calls, and related legal fees are all usually covered. It can also cover lost wages if you have to take time off work to deal with all the issues that will arise. If you don't think you could deal with these kinds of costs on your own, your best bet is to take out some coverage.

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