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Don’t be a victim! 10 ways to prevent identity theft

According to the latest research, incidences of identity theft in the U.S. increased by 11% from 2008 to 2009, seriously affecting the lives of 11 million people. This year’s numbers are expected to be even higher, with as many as one in every twenty Americans at risk of becoming a victim.

While certain groups – like young people or small business owners – might be more at risk, everyone is vulnerable. However, there are simple steps that each of us can take to minimize the risk of identity theft. Here are 10 tips for a more secure life online:

1. Get protection! This may seem like a no brainer, but security software is a must. It helps you stay fully protected against malware, spyware, hackers, and identity theft. And don’t forget to perform regular updates and scans.

2. Password strength matters. Strong passwords include 8-14 upper & lower case characters and numbers. Be sure to avoid birthdays, family names, and words or phrases that are easy to guess.

3. Stay current! Remember that random program you downloaded to watch the video Aunt Sally sent? You probably haven’t updated that program since. But guess what? If left on its own, that one program could leave your system vulnerable to outside attacks.

4. A Firewall is your friend. Current versions of Windows include a firewall that helps prevent malicious traffic from reaching your PC. Turn it on and leave it on.

5. Click with care. If you’re checking e-mail or talking over IM, avoid clicking on links or opening files from people you don’t know. Those links and files could take you to malicious websites or download malware onto your machine.

6. Practice safe online shopping.
If you’re about to purchase those killer shoes or the latest electronic toy, make sure you buy from a reputable online retailer. You should also look for a URL that starts with "https" and has the lock symbol before you enter credit card information.

7. Socialize safely! By now, we’ve all received a bad link on our favorite social network. Utilize your social network’s security settings to their optimum level. Plus, do you really want strangers to read every detail of your life?

8. Keep it private!
A good rule of thumb: Don’t post anything you wouldn’t want to see on the front page of your local newspaper. This includes your phone number, email address, street address—and your vacation plans!

9. Stamp out spam! Most Internet Service Providers & security software programs have anti-spam technologies. The spam blocker will help prevent fraudulent emails from showing up in your inbox.

10. Be careful where you surf.
Open networks are called open for a reason: anyone can connect, including attackers. If you have to use one, make sure you use VPN software to protect yourself from other people who want to see your wireless traffic.

Comment by TechyDad, posted 10/13/2010, 8:05 PM:

All good suggestions but, as a victim of ID theft, I know that you are only as secure as the least secure place your data is stored. This could mean a doctor's office, a store's computer system, etc. If any of these places has a breach, your information could be leaked. And you, like me, might never know where the breach occured or when. If you put a freeze on your credit file, then nobody can open up new credit lines (unless you first thaw it out for a limited time).
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