Sunday, September 28, 2008

Personal Security and Identity Theft

Today I would like to tell you about a very good and experienced person that has an excellent site with lots of advice and tips about computing and the Internet.

Below is one of his articles.

Many computer users are concerned about personal security and identity theft. With regular news of theft and fraud it certainly makes sense to be cautious about the security of your information online.

However online is not the only place to exercise caution. The fact is that identity theft and fraud are just as rampant off-line as in cyberspace - perhaps even more so. You should perhaps be more concerned about the security of your information in the "real world".

Online shopping is something most take for granted these days. In fact many would scoff at the very question "Is online shopping safe?" Yet there are still many people who are afraid to shop online. They're certain that the internet is full of hackers waiting to steal their sensitive personal information as it goes by.

The irony, though, is that these same people are willing to give that information - along with an image of their signature - to a complete stranger at a restaurant, or to a minimum wage retail clerk.

Many people have an over-inflated sense of risk when it comes to threats that they don't understand, and let's face it, who really understands the internet? What you do need to understand is where the risks really are, and how likely each is to actually happen.

Credit card theft does happen online. But as long as you deal with reputable retailers and avoid scams, it's incredibly rare that it would happen as you make a simple purchase, or because someone is somehow monitoring your transaction.

What's more common, though still surprisingly infrequent, are major break-ins at banks or retailers where the information for many people is stolen all at once. In a case like this, it doesn't matter if you used your card online or off - both types of customers would be affected. On top of that, most of those break-ins are dealt with so quickly that you might be affected only to the extent that your account is disabled and quickly replaced.

Individual theft occurs most often off-line. A clerk might make a copy of your credit card and signature, your bank statements might get stolen out of your trash, or your new credit card might disappear out of your mail box before you even know it. Those are all much more common than online scenarios. Even so they're still fairly rare occurrences across millions of card holders and daily transactions.

As briefly mentioned above, the caution needed for an online scenario is simple: make sure you're doing business with reputable merchants. Make sure that the business you're about to buy from is real, and one you've heard of. By now I'm certain that there are big names you've already heard of that you can trust. In addition, most all of your off-line sources have online presences. And of course you'll also hear by word of mouth what online businesses have treated others well.

When it comes time to enter in your personal information, make sure that the connection to their site is httpS secure - that's a great way to ensure that you're dealing with who you think you are, as well as keeping your information from other prying eyes.

Finally, don't fall for scams and phishing attempts. That rule of thumb is also very simple and completely in your control: if you didn't initiate the transaction, it's time to be very skeptical.

So go ahead - shop online.

Don't let unfounded fear of a theft that's unlikely to happen stop you from enjoying the convenience.

I know I won't.

You'll find more free tech help and advice on personal and computer security from Leo Notenboom by visiting With over 30 years of industry experience, including an 18 year career as a software engineer with Microsoft, Leo gives real answers to real questions from ordinary computer users at Ask Leo!

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