Category Archives: Prevention

Identity Theft Deterrent – Quick Tips on How to Protect Yourself

Identity theft is on the rise. With the digital age there are many more ways for criminals to steal your identity than there have ever been before. While taking care of your digital information is important, overlooking deterrents that have been common practice for years would be a mistake. Today we are going to look at a couple of identity theft deterrent quick tips, both online and via paper.

For online purposes, perhaps one of the strongest things you can do is create strong, unique passwords for your accounts. This seems to be common sense, but it may surprise you to know how common it is for people to create easy to guess passwords. Also, common passwords, such as 1234 and password.

Using a mix of upper case and lower case letters, as well as numbers and symbols is key. Creating a long enough password is also important. It is tremendously more difficult for a cyber criminal to hack into an account with a 6 digit password as it is to hack into one with an 8 digit password. The longer the password you can create, the more secure it is going to be. Keeping your sensitive online accounts locked down with strong passwords is a great identity theft deterrent – plus it is something quite easy to do.

To take this one step further, you should consider opting in to all the two step authentication processes as possible. Not all sites offer this two step authentication, but it is becoming increasingly common and should be a tool you use to deter identity theft. Two step authentication essentially means that you must enter a password as well as a temporary password that the site will text you when you log in. It may seem like a hassle, but the texts come quite quickly when you attempt to log in, and the short amount of time you add in logging in could save you a tremendous amount of time in the future trying to clean up after having an account hacked.

With regards to protecting your identity the old fashioned way, the top tip we have to offer is to purchase and use a paper shredder. This also seems like common sense, but many people simply throw their account statements in the garbage. Getting a cross cut shredder and running your statements through it before discarding them is a key deterrent to identity theft. Everyone should be doing this, it takes only seconds and can save you a lot of time and trouble in the future.

For more information, check out our identity theft deterrent ebook at

Online Safety For Young Gamers

online saftey for young gamersMillions of parents will be buying their children computer games this Christmas – Over 15 million copies of ‘MW3’ and 8 million copies of ‘Battlefield’ alone are expected to be sold during the build up to the holidays.

These and other games appeal to our kids (and not so young gamers) because of the online gaming capabilities. They are able to team up with others from anywhere in the world and battle against other teams of gamers.

This teaches them how to work as part of a team and interact with other gpeople and is a good thing. Not knowing the other people that they are chatting to or teamed up with though is the down side to online gaming.

Most parents are aware of the dangers of predators online and the risks of online bullying but you also need to be aware of hackers and identity thieves who target children.

Only this summer the Sony Playstation network was attacked by hackers and millions of accounts were compromised. This should act as a warning to parents because if they can successfully attack a company gaming network such as Sony then how hard do you think it will be to get onto your hard drive?

Here’s some tips on keeping young gamers safe online.

  • Make sure the user names they choose don’t give clues to their whereabouts, age or even sex. You don’t want any personal info in their at all
  • Most games that feature live voice chat include an option that allows the user to disguise their voice so others won’t be able to tell where they are from by listening to their accent, how old they are, their sex etc.  – if it doesn’t I would suggest not buying it
  • Always make sure they use an avatar rather than a picture of themselves
  • If your child is using a computer for their gaming make sure you have an up to date anti-virus, anti-spyware and firewall installed and set up – you should have these on all computers but they are absolutely essential for PC’s used for online gaming
  • Be with them when they first set up a new game so you can be sure they use a strong password when they set up their gaming account. The longer the better, random letters, numbers and throw in a symbol or two to such as a * or a !
  • Use the parental controls that are included in your browser to prevent them from trying to download cheat programs. These are often malware programs set up because they know the kids will be searching for “how to’s” for the popular games
  • Make sure they know to not to send anything to other gamers as it may contain private data an hacker can use
  • Webcams are a definite no unless they are only gaming with actual friends
  • If another gamer wants to send them something to help them it’s almost certainly a virus or trojan designed to either do harm or allow them access to your computer. Make sure they know not to accept any files from other gamers.

As well as the above you should also keep the gaming computer downstairs in the living area rather than their bedroom so you can monitor how long they play for.

Have a go yourself so you can get a feel of the game and the type of gamers playing and make sure they know they can come and talk to you if they feel another gamer is bullying them.

Online gaming is great fun but because certain games attract a particular age group the game network can attract undesirables looking for kids and teens who will have their guard down. Talking to your young gamers and explaining how not everyone is who they say they as well as making them aware of the dangers of viruses, trojans and online identity theft will lower the risks considerably.

You can find more useful information about protecting children online as well as protecting your home network from hackers and identity thieves at the National Cyber Security Alliance.

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Avoid Identity Theft This Christmas

avoid identity theft this christmasThe number of reported cases of identity theft is fast approaching 10 million a year say the FTC so the odds of it happening to you are continually shortening.

Now clearly having your identity stolen at any time of the year is never going to pleasant but with the FTC estimating the average victim spends $500 and around 30 hours sorting out the damage left by the thief, stress levels are sure to be even higher should you fall victim over the Christmas period.

Unfortunately it is an irony of modern life that as the holiday season approaches, your chances of avoiding identity theft shorten even further. We are out shopping a lot more than usual for all those presents which increases the chances of us losing or having our wallet or purse stolen.

It’s the same online – the credit cards will be taking an even bigger hit this year as most families are struggling through the recession and will be putting Christmas on the plastic.

TransUnion have some precautions they recommend you take to help you avoid identity theft during the holiday period:

Monitor your credit. Consider enrolling in a credit monitoring service that will alert you via email to changes in your credit report. This way you will know quickly if someone else has tried to open a new credit account in your name.

When holiday shopping, only carry essential documents with you. Only take your driver’s license and the credit card or cards you intend to use that day. Do not carry your Social Security card, birth certificate or passport, and consider leaving at home other types of cards that may have identifying information on them, like wholesale club cards or library cards.

Before you surf the “Net” on Cyber Monday, consider changing your account passwords and keep a list of them in a secure place. Passwords and PIN numbers should be a random mix of letters, numbers and special characters, which makes it harder for identity thieves to guess.

The holidays mean plenty of extra trash. Shred everything that contains personal, identifying information before throwing it out.

Keep a close eye on your credit card bills. This is especially important during the holidays, when close attention can help you catch any charges you don’t recognize on your statement. An added bonus – you’ll also be more aware of how much you’re spending and be better prepared to stay within your holiday spending budget.

When shopping online, only do business with websites that have security measures in place to protect you. Before you provide any personal or payment information, look for a URL that begins with https (not http) and a lock emblem on the page, typically next to the address bar.

The above are all excellent tips and I would add changing your online passwords once you have finished your Christmas shopping to the list.

If you have been caught out by a phishing scam it can be some time before the criminal gets around to using the info because they use automation to send out literally millions of emails so changing your passwords makes the data they have collected worthless and they will move on to the next victim.

If you are someone who uses the same password for everything and it is made up of initials and a date of birth or house number, add an usual character to the end to prevent it being guessed – A single & sign or a * added to the start or end can increase their strength hundred fold.

Simply by being someone who is aware of the dangers of identity theft you have already lowered your risk considerably so don’t obsess so much that it spoils your Christmas – Just take some reasonable precautions to avoid identity theft happening to you as you shop for your presents this year.

Please do your bit to help others avoid identity theft this Christmas by clicking on one or more of the social buttons below, thank you.

How Do You Prevent Identity Theft?

Prevent Identity TheftThere really is no need to pay a company each and every month for the rest of your life to safe guard your identity. By taking a few precautions yourself you can prevent identity theft from happening to you, or at least lower the chances to negligible.

Go buy yourself a shredder and get into the habit of using it. If your town newspaper covered a story revealing personal files had been discovered in the trash at a local health clinic you wouldn’t be impressed so why do you throw out papers with your details on them?

Dumpster diving has long been a method criminals have used to get the info they need to steal an identity and shredding removes this danger. Things that can’t be shredded such as credit cards and DVD’s/CD’s with saved files from your PC should either be burned or have the scissors taken to them.

In our household we have a basket for unwanted mail and once its full one of the kids does the shredding as part of that weeks chores. This removes the temptation to just throw an item into the trash because you are in a hurry that particular morning.

If in doubt, shred it. Even junk mail has your full name on it and gives the criminal a starting point.

Make sure you know who is on the other end of the phone line.

You are in the middle of making dinner, the phone rings, the person tells you he’s from your bank and apologizes for the inconvenience but they’ve just had a computer crash and just need to verify a few details with you. You’re in a hurry, your mind is on the roast in the oven and you aren’t thinking straight and BINGO the criminal just found his next victim.

Your bank or other financial institution will never ring and ask you to confirm your login details and they shouldn’t be ringing to ask you for your SS number, DOB or other personal info either. That’s why they asked you that weird question when you first signed up, you know the one about your first pet or your mothers maiden name? That question is there for staff to verify who you are and is the only one they should be asking you.

If you get such a call ask for the persons name and extension number and tell them you will ring back in 5 minutes. Telephone the number without the extension to verify where the call is coming from.

Be safe online.

Most of us have heard of the email from someone in Africa wanting someone to help him move millions of dollars out of his country. All you have to do is give him your bank details and he’ll share the money with you. Despite the publicity this con received there are still people falling victim on a daily basis. Since this email first did the rounds though the criminals have developed much more sophisticated methods to get your details.

Your bank, Paypal, Ebay, Gmail and Hotmail, Amazon and all those other services you may use will never ever email you asking for your log in details. If you get such an email click on nothing apart from delete.

Some criminals have taken to copying the look of a company mail to further increase the chances of success. Some have even gone another step and have cloned a site completely so you are completely convinced you are at the genuine site of The Bank of America for instance.

Here’s how it usually works: Using our Bank of America example they will send out millions of emails that look just like the genuine article. Now the majority of people receiving this email will realize its a fake because they don’t have accounts with that bank but this form of identity theft is a numbers game and a small percentage will have so they open it up.

The mail will inform them that a large transaction needs authorizing and can they please log in to their account asap and it’ll even provide the link to the log in page.

Of course, its not the genuine log in page but an exact clone of the original. The unsuspecting victim enters their log in details and they are collected by the criminal who then uses them on the original banks website to gain access to the account.

Be aware of these tricks and be vigilant. They work because they trigger a need for us to find out what’s going on and so we act without thinking but does your bank really email you when money goes in or out of your account? If in doubt, click nothing and give your bank a ring.

Gmail in particular are good at spotting these fake mails and will either send them straight to the spam folder or if not, will warn you that it doesn’t appear to be from who it claims. Also, many of the anti virus software suites now guard against this type of thing so make sure your software is on and updated regularly.

Social Networking

Facebook – more and more of us use it and its scary to think that if it were a country it would be the 8th most populated in the world. What scares me about it is the amount of info people put in their details.

Put your identity thief hat on for just a minute. Cold calling, bulk emailing etc. will catch the odd victim but what if you could increase your success rate to something like 1 in 10 or even 1 in 5 phone calls?

If I were to call you claiming to be from the Bank of America my success rate is going to be extremely low. You might be wise to these cons and there is also a good chance you aren’t even with that bank so its a none starter and a waste of a dime.

What if I were to call though saying I was from your old high school and was trying to get the class of 88 together? I drop a few of your high school friends names in to the conversation to put you further at ease and oh by the way, can you confirm your Social Security number for me just so I know I have the correct Jane Doe?

I know you left in 88 because your DOB is on Facebook. I know which high school you went to and who you hung around with because that’s all there in your profile too.

Make sure you have your privacy settings to only show your name and nothing else to anyone who isn’t a friend. Make sure you know exactly who that friend request is from before accepting.

Preventing identity theft is the same as preventing your house from being the next one to be broken into. You put an alarm box on the wall, a ‘beware of the dog’ sign up, some exterior lighting, decent window and door locks and a bigger fence. The robber comes along, takes a look, realizes its way too much work and risk so moves on to your neighbors home.

Its the same with your identity. Your trash is full of shredded paper, they move on to the next. You refuse to answer their questions on the phone, they hang up and dial another number. You don’t reply to their emails, they send them to others. Your Facebook profile is hidden, they move on to someone else.

Be vigilant and be aware of the dangers but don’t be panicked into purchasing services that require you to pay a monthly subscription. You can prevent identity theft yourself with some good old common sense.

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