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Identity Theft – Protect Yourself

Written By: Chris N. Fernando

First things firstbe responsible and act fast! Dont just sit there with your head buried into your hands as if the world just ended. Protecting yourself from identity theft takes proactive effort. Also, dont be under the impression that Identity Theft can’t happen to you. Believe me, anyone, I mean ANYONE, can become a victim of Identity Theft. Also, I would recommend a quick run through the movie The Net. The movie shows Sandra Bullock losing her identity, though the techniques shown arent really the ones employed by most hackers. Hey, what the heck. At least you get to see the consequences of this type of crime.

Here are some things you can do to protect yourself:
1) Dont give out your Social Security number unless it is absolutely necessary. Many companies collect more information than they really need. Make sure that it’s something they have to have and make sure they’ll protect your privacy.

When you get a mail from your bank asking you to visit a website link and submit your Debit/Credit card number, online banking password, etc, dont just jump onto the website and start entering the info yet. Almost all banks won’t ask you for this information, as this info will already be in their systems. It takes just 5 minutes to call up the bank and ask them, whether they ‘really’ sent a mail asking for the info.

Banks always send you credit card offers and other mailers to your home address. In case you are not interested in those offers, dont just dump them into your waste bin. It would be wise to shred these papers before you dump them for good. If you dont do this, be ready for a huge credit card bill next monththere might be people who might just go through your waste bin, gather these ‘dumped’ papers and use these to get a credit card for them in your name!

2) Watch for your checkbook. Most of us have a habit of keeping a few check leaves signed in advance. Someone could just misuse these leaves, in case it gets into wrong hands.

3) When using a computer for Internet purposes in public places, keep an eye on people who shoulder-surf. Also, clear the browser cache, logout of all the websites you might have logged into and delete the files you might have downloaded onto the PC, before you leave the place.

4) Never give out personal information on the phone to someone you don’t know and who initiated the call. Often, scammers could just call you up pretending to be financial services company and request information to be provided over the phone.

5) If you are a person, who does lots of online shopping, heres one word of caution: Use secured and known websites to shop online. Usually a secured website would start with https instead of http. Also, you would get a lock or a key icon at the bottom of the browser.

5) Do not open executable attachments in the form of .exe, .pif, .com, etc from people you dont know. It might be a Trojan or a spy ware sent to you, just to get personal information about you. In case you find out that your PC has been running slow lately, its most likely that it has spy ware or ad ware running in the background. Use free programs like Lavasoft AdAware to remove these spy wares and ad wares from your PC. You can download a copy from www.download.com.

I am already a victim…what do I do?
Wellthen God help you. Just joking! There are places where you can report this, so that authorities can bring those criminals to book. Almost all countries have their own IT laws amended that can get you out of this problem and also ensure that the person committing this crime gets punished.

The US has one of the toughest punishments for people committing this crime. Most of these criminals are not less than a hacker. If you are in the US, these links should help you out:

U.S. Postal Inspection Service:
http://www.usps.com/postalinspectors/

Federal Trade Commission:
http://www.consumer.gov/idtheft

U.S. Secret Service:
http://www.secretservice.gov

Department of Justice:
http://www.usdoj.gov/criminal/fraud/idtheft.html

Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation:
http://www.fdic.gov/consumers

India has been taking crimes committed by using IT as a means quite seriously. In fact, it is compared to hacking. Mumbai Police in India has setup a special Cyber Crime Cell to curb this kind of offense. In fact, Mumbai Polices Cyber Crime Cell Call Center is the first call center in the world to have been certified for its facility and its operation as per British Standards. These are some of the links that can help:

Mumbai Police – Cyber Crime Cell
http://www.cybercellmumbai.com/

Central Bureau of Investigation Cyber Crime Cell
http://www.cbi.nic.in/cyber1.htm

Pakistan too has its own Cyber Crime Cell by the name PakCERT (Pakistan Computer Emergency Response Team). These guys track down people defacing websites and keep cyber crime at bay.

The link to PakCERT is:
www.pakcert.org

These are just some examples. If you run a search on Google.com, you might end up with umpteen websites that will help you from being a victim. However, as it is always, prevention is better than cure. Isnt it true? You bet!

About the Author

Chris N. Fernando is a Sr. Staff Writer with Magazine 360 – an IT magazine published by ITNation, Mumbai (India). He has also worked as Technical Editor with Peer Technical Services and as Reporter for PCQuest and Living Digital magazines. He also writes for www.TheCheers.org.

Get more of him at: www.chrisfernando.tk
Mail him at: chris.n.fernando@gmail.com

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