Common Sources of Identity Theft

Online identity theft scams are a very real and growing concern, so it's important that you take steps to protect your personal information online. When you're doing anything online, keep these identity theft tips in mind:

Only conduct transactions through secure websites.
Believe it or not, it's easy to lose your personal information through failing to conduct a transaction through a secure website. Some owners of non-secure websites don't intend to cause trouble, but third-party online identity theft masters can intercept your personal data en route to your transaction. In other cases, non-secure transactions aren't transactions at all; just a chance for you to give away your personal information for free. Look for a padlock in the status bar of your Web browser, indicating that your transaction is secure. Research your buyer if you're dealing with an unknown third party.

When possible, use PayPal.
PayPal provides a secure way to pay for online transactions. When you use PayPal, your recipient doesn't see any of your account information; your payment is processed directly through PayPal, so you have the peace of mind of knowing that your personal information is protected. PayPal also offers a Resolution Center where you can dispute transactions if you've been cheated.

Look out for phishing scams.
In email phishing scams, online identity theft masters attempt to trick you into visiting a website that resembles a well-known institution, such as eBay or your bank. In reality, though, the website you're visiting is a third-party portal to a database that the online identity theft perpetrators control. When you input personal information for -verification' purposes, you're giving your sensitive information directly to criminals. Learn about phishing scams and how to avoid them.

Use a good anti-Spyware and Anti-Virus program.
Not all online identity theft occurs through trickery; some thieves resort to more brute methods of obtaining your personal information. If you don't employ a good anti-Spyware and anti-virus program, you're at risk of losing your personal information through malicious software. Keyloggers record every keystroke that you make and report back to a home computer, giving online identity thieves your username and password directly. Other malicious software programs sort through your stored cookies, accounting software or personal files for sensitive information. Always use a good anti-Spyware and anti-virus program to protect yourself from these direct threats.

Look out for money-making opportunities.
If you get emails saying you've won a lottery or contest, providing you with -work-at-home' opportunities or asking for help to bring investments into the country in return for a small fee, delete them immediately. One of the biggest moneymakers for online identity theft predators is preying on people who want extra cash. They'll either ask for your personal information to claim your -prize,' whereupon they'll steal your identity and ruin your credit, or they'll ask you to send money in order to pay processing fees, taxes or other expenses. They then vanish with your money or your identity. Beware them.

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