Computer Identity Theft

Many people, especially older people who did not grow up with computers, are concerned about the possibility of computer identity theft. Their fear is that someone will obtain private personal data about them through their computer, and then use that information to steal their identity and take out bank accounts, loans, even driver’s licenses and passports in their name. Computer identity theft is real, but it is important to know just what it means for you as a computer user. Although there are identity theft laws to protect you, it is always better to avoid it completely and know how to do it.

The first thing to know is that computer identity theft is much less common than identity theft in the real world, a fact that surprises many people. If you take the right precautions when using your computer, it can be quite safe. Here’s what you should know about computers and identity theft.

Safeguard Your Computer

Make sure that you know everyone who might have access to your computer. Password protect your computer so that if you go away from it for awhile or if it is turned off, your data cannot be accessed by another user. When you are using a shared computer, always physically click the “log off” or “sign off” button when you complete your session. You may also wish to clear the cache of your visited website history. Do not instruct a shared computer to save any names or passwords. This may provide a small level of convenience for you, but it opens yourself up to computer identity theft.

Use Responsible Internet Practices

The Internet is fun to use, and making transactions over the Internet can often be quite safe if you to do it the right way. Only make transactions or provide any sensitive personal data over a secure, encrypted server, and never give out a password or financial data online if requested through an instant message or email. If you think the message or email is legitimate, close it out and visit the website that is requesting the information by typing the correct website address directly into the URL. If they need any information, you will be able to provide it this way. You need to be aware of Internet identity theft when you browse.

Stay Aware of Your Credit

Another way to protect yourself from the damage that computer identity theft can cause is to keep watch on your credit report and your credit score. Credit monitoring services let you know immediately by email if there has been any significant activity with your credit report or your credit score. A loan taken out or a line of credit opened up without your knowledge will trigger an alert. When you get the email, you can investigate the situation and notify the relevant parties (bank, credit card agency, etc.). This will greatly reduce the damage caused by computer identity theft. Even though you are not responsible for what an identity thief does, the situation can take a long time to straighten out if it goes on for a while without your knowledge. Credit monitoring can help you nip it in the bud and possibly catch the thief.

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