More tips and tools to prevent identity theft and stay safe from cyber crime.
This article is part two in my series on how to prevent identity theft and stay safe from cyber crime. Read that article for more on how to protect your personal information so you stay stafe from identity theft.
Online Scams to Avoid
Some of the most successful online scams have been accomplished by e-mail that appears to be from well-known companies such as eBay, Bank of America, or PayPal, for example. The scammers like to go phishing with recognized company names and logos because they know it gives their bait an extra dose of credibility. But the reality is that no reputable company should send you an e-mail asking for your confidential information.
Many thriving scams are surprisingly silly. I’m sure everyone has received an urgent e-mail from someone in Nigeria who desperately needs your bank account information to wire you a couple million dollars. Give me a break! That’s the classic Nigerian Advance Fee Fraud, also known as the “4-1-9” Fraud. I still get a couple of these bizarre messages each month and they just make me laugh. Any e-mail I get that begins with “Dear Gentlemen” goes straight in the trash!
Other Common Online Scams
Some other common fraud schemes come in the form of chain letters, fake charity e-mails, and even a rip-off that appears to be from the government. That one takes your credit card number and charges you for a Social Security report that’s actually free! The lesson is that we all need to be highly suspicious and skeptical of anyone who comes knocking on our online door. The “stranger danger” motto that we teach children, works well in the virtual world too. Never click on any link or download files or programs from strangers. They could contain spy-ware or viruses meant to harm your files or jeopardize your online security.
If you have even a smidgen of doubt—here’s another good motto—“just delete it.” If you want to check an account or follow up on an e-mail offer, go directly to the company website instead of clicking on a hyperlink. So remember, if you get an e-mail from anyone asking for your confidential information—from your social security number to your address to your credit card numbers—delete, delete, delete!
How to Prevent Identity Theft
If a thief does get your personal information and opens an account in your name, it should show up on your credit report. That’s why it’s important to view your reports at each of the three major credit bureaus—Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian—on a periodic basis. U.S. federal law gives you the right to see each of them for no charge once a year. You can view and print them at annualcreditreport.com. If you find any discrepancies, be sure to report them right away.