Protecting your identity and personal information from prying eyes online is now becoming an increasingly difficult task. Loopholes in your computer software abound, granting hackers, thieves and other malcontents easy and unhindered access to your confidential information.
This page serves as a good starting point for educating yourself on the many dangers that currently abound on the Internet and the various methods you can use to protect yourself online.
This page has been divided into three easy sections:
- 7 practices for Safer Computing provides practical advice on protecting yourself and your personal information from Internet fraud.
- Identity Theft is an entire section devoted to the topic of protecting yourself against this dangerous and fast-spreading threat.
- Fake Checks Scams offers valuable information as to how fake check scams work, and how to avoid becoming a victim.
All the sections have been taken from the Federal Trade Commission's website on Identity Theft, the FakeChecks website, as well as OnGuardOnline, the FTC's website for practical information on protecting yourself online.
I. 7 Practices for Safer Computing
Seven practical tips for a safer online experience.
- Protect your personal information. It's valuable.
- Know who you're dealing with.
- Use anti-virus and anti-spyware software, as well as a firewall, and update them all regularly.
- Be sure to set up your operating system and Web browser software properly, and update them regularly.
- Protect your passwords.
- Back up important files.
- Learn who to contact if something goes wrong online.
II. Identity Theft
What is identity theft?
Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personally identifying information, like your name, Social Security number, or credit card number, without your permission, to commit fraud or other crimes.
Identity theft is serious. While some identity theft victims can resolve their problems quickly, others spend hundreds of dollars and many days repairing damage to their good name and credit record. Some consumers victimized by identity theft may lose out on job opportunities, or be denied loans for education, housing or cars because of negative information on their credit reports. In rare cases, they may even be arrested for crimes they did not commit.
III. Fake Check Scams
How do fake check scams work?
There are many variations of the scam. It usually starts with someone offering to:
- Buy something you advertised for sale.
- Pay you to work at home.
- Give you an “advance” on a sweepstakes you’ve won.
- Give you the first installment on the millions you’ll receive for agreeing to transfer money in a foreign country to your bank account for safekeeping.
The scammers often claim to be in other countries and say it’s too difficult to pay you directly, so they’ll have someone in the U.S. who owes them money send you a check or money order. The amount of the check or money order may be more than you’re owed, so you’re instructed to deposit it and wire the rest to the scammer or to someone else. In some cases, the scammer promises to transfer money directly to your bank account. You provide your account information for an electronic fund transfer. Instead, the crook sends your bank a phony check or money order with instructions to deposit it in your account. When you check your balance, it looks like the funds have arrived. Whatever the set-up, the result is the same — after you’ve wired the money, you find out that the check or money order has bounced.
* Content for the articles in this section has been taken from the Federal Trade Commission Website, http://onguardonline.gov and their website on Identity Theft, http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft/ as well as the FakeChecks website at http://www.fakechecks.org.