BBB on top five ways to prevent ID theft online
LAFAYETTE – The good news is that ID theft is on the decline. The bad news is that ID theft still affected 8.1 million Americans last year, according to Javelin Strategy and Research – down 3.6 percent from 8.4 million in the previous year’s study. The average amount lost per individual as a result of ID theft last year was about $5,500, for a total of $45 billion. Despite the decline in reported ID theft, Better Business Bureau (BBB) warns that thieves and hackers still lurk online and is offering advice consumer can use to protect their personal and financial information.
The BBB recommends consumers take the following fives steps to prevent ID theft whenever they are online:
1. Don’t fall for a phishing e-mail.
Phishing—using e-mail or phone calls to pose as a trustworthy organization in order to coerce sensitive information from victims—is on the rise. According to a survey for Gartner, Inc., 3.6 million U.S. adults lost money in phishing attacks in the 12 months ending in August 2007, as compared with the 2.3 million who did so the year before. The amount of money lost totaled $3.2 billion.
Phishing e-mails can look legitimate with graphics and official logos of banks, government agencies, or credit card companies. The e-mails usually include hyperlinks that direct the victim to a Web site designed to install viruses and malware or solicit bank account or Social Security numbers.
In order to prevent ID theft through phishing e-mails, computer users should completely delete unsolicited e-mails from banks, credit unions, investment firms and government agencies with which they do not already have an established relationship.
2. Create strong passwords and protect them.
Developing a habit of regularly changing passwords makes it much more difficult for ID thieves to steal personal information. Some passwords, however, are stronger than others. Attributes of a secure password include a combination of numbers, capitalized letters and even symbols.
3. Be safe and secure when on the go.
Computer users on the go should be wary of entering passwords or sensitive information into a computer that isn’t theirs, such as at an Internet café, library, computer lab or airport kiosk. Hackers can actually record their target’s keystrokes to learn passwords and other information.
4. Guard personal computers with anti-virus, anti-spyware, and firewall protection.
Opinions vary, but the amount of time it takes for an unprotected personal computer to become infected with a virus or malware can range from four to thirty-four minutes. That’s why a computer must have good anti-virus software, as well as anti-spyware and firewall protection.
5. Only transfer information over a secure server.
When it comes to giving out personal information online, consumers should only do so on a secure server. On a secure server, the information is encrypted as it is being transmitted; that way, others can’t read it if they should intercept it.
For more trustworthy information on preventing ID theft, as well as BBB advice on what to do if your identity is stolen, go to www.acadiana.bbb.org.