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identity theft
writing grants
writing training
fraudulent charges
unknown source
social networking
searching the internet
vigilance
free resources
bank accounts
checking account
common sense
Avoiding Identity Theft On The Internet
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In another article I mentioned the many dangers of identity theft on the internet. Phishing, social networking profiles, keylogging, and fraudulent charges are just a few of the dangers we are exposed to each time we surf the internet. How do we protect ourselves from the dangers?

This article will provide several simple and free solutions to protect you from the dangers of identity theft on the internet.

Vigilance and Common Sense

These are god-given free resources each of us have. You do not need to be computer savvy to use them. We need to continually monitor our credit card and bank accounts. If transactions occur that have not authorized, this is a clear indication that the dangers of identity theft on the internet have hit home.

My wife wanted to help out the non-profit she was working for by writing grants. The problem was she knew nothing about grant-writing. After searching the internet, she came upon a free grant writing training couirse. This was great and the price was right. After having the grant-writing cd in hand for a week, a charge from an unknown source was on our checking account. (Note this is where vigilance comes in.) After checking with our bank, we discovered that the "free" granting writing was free for only a week after which we were billed.

Common sense would have asked the question, "Why would this group send information for free?" (My wife is great. However, she is very trusting.) Some good answers would be -- this is a government organization (".gov" website), a foundation for non-profit grant writing, or a non-profit seeking to help other non-profits with some basic information to get started.

Another question to ask is "How does this group make money, if they are giving this away for free?" Does the site indicate some other form of income?

Finally, before you click for a free item, be sure to read the fine print disclosure information. The terms of the agreement were stated and the charge was agreed to by my wife. We had no recourse but to accept the charges.

Emails

If you receive an email from a company regarding your password or financial information, beware. This could be a phishing ploy. Even though the email may have the logo and name, it may not be the real company.

A friend recently received an email from aweber. She questioned that email because she could not understand why an action was taken against her by the company. It requested her to log in and verify her account. She wisely typed in "aweber,com", and discovered everything was ok. If she would have clicked the email link she would have been sent to another website that would have highjacked her password for the other person's use. (She was first alerted to the potential problem of the email when she noticed that the mail was from "aweber", while the company always spells it "aWeber". Details do matter.)

Social Networking Profile

This is becoming a major way for identity theft on the internet to occur. People view your profile and gain enough information to look like a friend or co-worker. Therefore, be sure your profile is private, allowing only "friends" to see your information. Keep your profile limited. Just because there is places to fill in your high school, college, employee, does not mean you need to fill in the information. Limit your number of friends. It may be impressive to be able to say you have 527 friends on your account, but it also opens you to more dangers of identity theft on the internet.

Use anti-virus and anti-spyware and keep them updated

With the continual problem with viruses, it is necessary to have an anti-virus software. This protects your computer and will help protect you from identity theft on the internet. An excellent free antivirus software is AVG. It can be obtained from Cnet. Go to the downloads tab and type in AVG. This is a top rated software and has continual updates. There is a free and paid version. Cnet provides 100% virus free software downloads.

It is wise to read the comments of any software you download. While the software is virus free, sometimes the creator adds other software to make money on the free download. This may not be a virus, but may be unwanted, junk software that fills up your hard drive.

Keylogging usually occurs through downloaded software such as "free" games. Keylogging is captures the keys you type and looks specifically for passwords, credit card numbers, and other financially valuable pieces of personal information. This is truly an invisible danger of identity theft on the internet. To protect from keylogging use a free anti-spyware programs - like Lavasoft Adaware,Microsoft Windows Defender, and Spybot Search & Destroy.

Also consider using a Form Filler such as Lost Pass (for Firefox browser) or RoboForm. These are additions to your browser and allow you to set up a master password on the Formfiller which contains your personal information. When you start to use it you add the personal information and when you log in to a new site it will save your password. Then next time you desire to log it, the Form filler will so instantly. Since you do not type or paste any information, the keylogger does not record the password.

Furthermore, use only one credit card for online purchases. This is easier to keep track of than several cards. Also be sure to use a "credit card" not a debit or check card. Debit and check card do not have as much protection as a credit card from fraudulent charges.

Verify that the transaction sites are safe sites.

If you are ready to purchase an item from a website, look for Verisign trust seal. You can also download WOT a browser add on. WOT is a community-based, free safe surfing tool for browsers that provides website ratings & reviews to help web users as they search, surf & shop online.

Summary

So how can you protect yourself from the dangers of identity theft on the internet. Start with vigilance and common sense. Limit exposure to your personal information on line. If in doubt go to the official company website, when responding to emails. Install and keep updated your anti-virus and anti-spyware. Use a Form filler software. Watch for Verisign and WOT trust seals on sites from which you intend to make purchases.

Besides these activities I supplement protecting my identity with a software program that guides me to actions I can take to protect myself from identity theft on the internet and in other facets of my life. It has provided a feeling of security when I consider all the opportunities of my identity being stolen and the problems, headaches, and financial difficulties this would create in my life.


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