Your Good Name At Risk

By Insurance.com Posted : 03/08/2007

Identity theft is big business. According to the Federal Trade Commission, identity theft has topped consumer fraud complaints for 5 years in a row. The victim`s stories are truly frightening when describing the long slog it takes to get one`s credit restored. However, it is possible to safely surf and shop online. Being aware of how personal details are stolen will help to protect your identity, and prevent fraud.

Gone Phishing
One common method of stealing personal information is called phishing. This is the practice of luring users, generally through email messages, to phony websites that look exactly like official websites, such as a bank or credit card site. The phisher uses these phony sites to trick users into divulging private information such as logon IDs, passwords, and account numbers. Other sensitive personal information includes Social Security Numbers, your mother`s maiden name, or other details that could be used to ascertain your identity. Be careful with whom you share such information.

A Simple Rule
If an unsolicited email asks for personal information, even if the email looks like it`s from your own bank, don`t answer it! Additionally, such emails should be reported to your service provider.

Down on the Pharm
The related practice of pharming redirects a user from a legitimate website to one designed to have a similar look as the real site, where personal details are then captured as the user interacts with the website. In the future, many web browsers will offer protection from such sites, and will indicate if you have been shifted from one site to another unexpectedly.

Secure Surfing
Insurance.com, like many other websites, ensures secure, safe transactions. Any personal information entered on a website should be transmitted from a secure page, which means that the information sent is encrypted. Verisign, one of the major companies providing encryption (you can see their logo on many secure pages), compares sending data without encryption to sending mail through the postal system in a clear envelope. The most common method for encrypting information is a protocol called Secure Sockets Layer, or SSL. If the page you are on is secured using SSL, there will probably be a symbol, like an icon of a locked padlock somewhere on the page, and the website address will read "https://" rather than "http://."

Five things you can do to help avoid identity theft
In addition to using only secure sites, there are a plenty of non-technical strategies for avoiding identity theft.

  1. Avoid carrying your Social Security card with you. Ask that your SSN is NOT shown on your driver's license.
  2. Don't use passwords that are easy to figure out, such as birthdays or family names.
  3. Call 1-888-567-8688 (1-888-5-OPTOUT) to have yourself removed from lists to receive pre-approved credit offers.
  4. Buy a crosscut shredder and use it to dispose of all documents containing personal details, including pre-approved credit offers received in the mail.
  5. Never give out personal information to someone contacting you by phone or email. Always ask for credentials if you're unsure.

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