There are many people out there that have DSL or cable connections that don't have proper firewalls or up to date anti-virus programs in place. Too many think it just came with the computer. This can create a breach and your privacy violated. The General Accounting Office now puts identity theft at 750,000 victims a year. Victims spend an average of 175 painstaking hours to undo the damage.
There are things you can do to protect yourself especially regarding your computer. First and foremost, don't store your personal information on your computer. Someone harvesting that kind of information can literally go through thousands of computers in the hour you spend watching your favorite television program. Virus' can infect your system and relay that information in a lot less time. Make sure your firewalls and anti-virus software is up to date. If you don't have them - get them. You don't have to be the most tech savvy person to do it either. For the average user, you can find security information, news and products presented in plain language at quantum-links.com http://www.quantum-links.com/ to keep yourself and your computer running current and up to date. Beware people who come asking for your personal information. This is becoming commonly known as PHISH (Phishing). Services you already have do not email you asking for you to resubmit your information. PayPal had some of its customers caught in this net recently and had to issue an email telling them not to respond (This also has been reported by Citibank customers as well. ed). Instead of replying with your information, email them back asking for a telephone number by which to contact them directly. It is doubtful that they will respond with one. If they do, you can check out the number in a number of ways to make sure it's for real. One way is to use the reverse listings available on many search engines. My favorite is http://www.refdesk.com/.
Check your credit report at least once a year. Have a fraud alert put on your accounts. This is a flag that asks creditors to contact you before opening any new accounts. This may impede opening instant accounts. But, the security seems well worth the inconvenience. You can also order credit watch services from them that contact you when there is unusual activity. Here are links to the big three: Equifax Credit Information Services, Inc. Experian Information Solutions, Inc. TransUnion
You can also contact your financial institutions and ask about their information opt out programs. This takes you off any lists that they sell or trade. Especially do this with any accounts that you do online transactions with. Another good way to shield your privacy is to contact the Direct Marketing Association in New York to opt out of their member's lists. Use the links to find out how to opt out of each type: Email Telemarketing Regular Mail
This was just a short plain primer on protecting yourself. There are other options out there as well. If you stop and think, the time you spend on prevention will most likely be a lot less than any spent on repairing damage. Your brain and your computer aren't all that different.
The average person only uses about 10% of either. Tweak the 10% you use.
About the Author Guy Hartmann has a degree in Community Education and has over 20 years experience in the fields of education and community development. He is a regular contributor at http://www.quantum-links.com
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