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Identity Theft Awareness - Part 2
Posted: March 16, 2011

In the last Lake@Work newsletter, the problem of identity theft was introduced. You may have thought that this does not really concern you, but does it? In 2008 there were approximately 10 million victims of identity theft. Approximately one in every ten U.S. consumers has already been victimized. It can take a staggering 5,840 hours for some victims and on average, 330 hours for most to correct the damage done by identity theft.

The problem is only getting worse with the explosion of online shopping and the popularity of social media sites. So how do the unscrupulous cyber thieves steal your identity? Where computers are concerned, this generally happens in one of two ways, either the cyber thief figures out a sophisticated way to get an application known as a ‘key logger’ installed onto your computer or they simply put up a bogus web form that looks legitimate and lets you type in exactly what they want. In the case of a key logger, it can be accomplished with something as simple as a link on a web page, an attachment in an email, or a file off your friend’s USB drive.

So how can you protect yourself? First and foremost is through education, which is why Lake County Information Technology periodically sends out emails about possible security threats. For your home computer, there are many devices and/or software that can be installed to minimize computer threats, but the first line of defense is an educated computer user. The following two web sites offer important information on this topic: www.consumer.gov/idtheft and www.onguardonline.gov .

Take the following 10 steps to practice responsible computing:

  1. Install antivirus software from a reputable source (there are plenty of free ones). Keep the software and the virus definition files up to date.
  2. Use junk mail filtering. Most email applications have the ability to define junk mail and have it filtered to a separate mailbox. A good recommendation is that all email addresses except for those that are specifically known should be filtered as junk.
  3. Only open email attachments when they are expected and only if the sender is 100% secure. Remember that the sender of an email can easily cause the receiver to be fooled.
  4. Be very cautious when clicking on links in emails. This is one of the worst security dangers, and certainly, never click a link to get to online banking or financial sites (always type them in and verify your typing).
  5. Do not lower your security settings on your browser and do not click on random pop ups or accept special offers.
  6. Choose a unique random password for every bank and/or financial site that you use. Store the usernames and passwords in a safe place and do not give them to anyone.
  7. Do not enter personal information on web sites unless the web site is reputable, the site is secured, and there is no doubt that it is the correct site.
  8. Make sure to configure the network adapter to refuse connections from external users if using public wireless networks.
  9. Make sure that your home computer is secured, if setting up wireless at home. A required password and MAC filtering is recommended.
  10. Be sure to configure privacy settings appropriately if using social networking sites, and think cautiously about the personal information that is now being made available online through these sites.
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