The convenience of online shopping has made it easier for online thieves to access your personal information. They set up "shop" and lure you to unsecure pages where you freely provide your name, bank account and address while under the assumption you are making a purchase. When shopping or paying a bill online, always look for the security icon — a lock — in the address bar of your screen. This symbol means the establishment has measures in place to protect the information you are entering. Protect yourself, as well, and install security systems on your computer.
The key to protecting yourself and your family from identity theft is to remain aware of your bank accounts, credit report and security of personal information. You also need to know the common scenarios and tactics currently used by identify thieves so you can avoid falling prey to their schemes.
Skimming devices are placed in the card readers of ATMs and read all of the account information stored electronically on the magnetic strip of your card. As with most electronics, there are varying levels of skimming devices, and the higher quality ones can even record your personal identification number (PIN) as you punch it in on the ATM keypad. While skimming is not a new trick of the trade and has been happening since the late '90s, the progression of technology and availability of smaller computing devices has given thieves the opportunity to adjust their tactics just as measures are put into place to stop them. ATMs are the target because of the number of accounts that can be accessed so quickly.
Phishing is a scam — via email — to obtain personal information under the false pretense of being an established legitimate enterprise. The Los Angeles Times reports recent phishing attacks targeted thousands of people with emails from "Wallmart" and American Airlines. A good phishing attack can be hard to detect, so do not open emails or click on links if you have not made a recent purchase from the company. The link could lure you to provide your personal information or download software that allows a hacker full access to your personal computer.
What to do if you are a victim of identity theft:
1) Contact the fraud departments of each of the three major credit bureaus
2) Close the accounts that have been tampered with
3) File a police report with your local police and/or in the community where the identity theft took place
In an attempt to share what is going on in your life, it can be tempting to forget that social networking is available for anyone and everyone to see. Cyber thieves regularly roam social networking sites looking for those who have let their guard down and posted personal information. They are good at piecing together bits of information here and there to learn more about you than you want them to know. They use this information to steal from you and commit fraud. Always be mindful of what you post online.
Thieves can gain access to your banking accounts when they snatch your wallet or purse. You become a target for stealing when you are distracted, out late at night and in a new place. When traveling or grocery shopping, it is smart to wear a cross-body purse so you are not leaving your personal information unattended or easily accessible. In a new place, you should try to be off your cell phone and aware of your surroundings.
More articles to protect your identity
Information you shouldn't share over the phone
10 Signs you may be a victim of identity theft
Identity theft protection tips