Again, RealSimple.com rocks.... easy tips on preventing computer ID theft.... click here for the full article!
-Store personal information on your computer or PDA. Data on these devices are vulnerable to hackers, thieves, and snoops. If you want to preserve sensitive information — account passwords, for instance — in electronic format, consider storing it on a CD or floppy disk that you can keep in a locked closet or box and pop into your computer when needed.
-Shop on-line without confirming two important safety features: When you go to the ordering page, there should be a lock icon at the bottom of the page, a sign that the site uses an encryption system to transfer your personal data from your computer to theirs. Also, in the URL on the address bar, you want to see "https" — the S stands for secure.
-Store credit-card information on a website. What you give up in shopping convenience you'll gain in security.
-Open or respond to any unwanted e-mail. Simply opening an unknown e-mail — especially one with an attachment — can unleash a "worm" on your computer that can disable your system and potentially grant a hacker access to personal information stored on it. If you're curious about an e-mail (is it from a long-lost friend?), just hit Reply and ask the sender to identify himself. If it's junk, you'll get either no reply or a note that your message couldn't be sent.
-Fall for phishers. Phishing is a scam in which cybercrooks "fish" for information by sending legit-looking e-mails that ask you to verify account information for an existing service, such as a phone or an e-mail account. Typically, you'll be asked to share your Social Security number, credit-card number, or account number. Never respond to these e-mails. Instead, contact the service provider directly — through a website or a phone number you know is legitimate — and ask if it has indeed requested this information.
-Use obvious passwords. Make a hacker's life difficult by using passwords and PINs that are long, and use a combination of letters and numbers. Don't use anything remotely connected to your Social Security number, your birth date, or your mother's maiden name.
-Use virus and security protection. Without an antivirus program, your computer has an open-door policy for hackers and virus spreaders. Both Norton's Internet Security package ($63, www.amazon.com) and McAfee's Internet Security Suite ($63, www.amazon.com) offer comprehensive protection for your PC against viruses, spyware, and spam. Security programs for Macintoshes are available, too. Also make sure to check for security updates for your operating system on-line at least every two weeks.
-Completely erase the hard drive of any computer you plan to give away. If someone tech-savvy gets hold of your old computer, he can recover even deleted information from your hard drive. So make sure to "scrub" your hard drive with free downloadable programs like Sure Delete from Wizard Industries (www.wizard-industries.com) for Windows and Code Tek's Safeshred (www.codetek.com) for Macs.
-Use one credit card exclusively for Internet shopping, suggests Howard A. Schmidt, former cybersecurity adviser to the White House and a consultant for McAfee Security. If your information falls into the wrong hands (through hacking, intercepted mail, etc.), you can just cancel the card and continue using another one in the "real world."
(image via Flickr)