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Simple Mistakes That Could Get Your Identity Stolen

by Robyn Tippins on November 7, 2012

ID Theft - More Common Than People RealizeBy Helena Bequette

At the recent Democratic National Convention, a delegate got so excited during a speech that she held up her Medicare ID card. As soon as the cameras picked this up, her name and social security number were broadcast to millions of people. This information is enough to allow a thief to steal her identity.

While it’s unlikely that you will let your information be broadcast to the world, it’s easy to make other mistakes that will allow your data to end up in the wrong hands. Unfortunately, social media serves as a passage way for identity theft through Inbox messaging. Here are a few things you may do that can result in identity theft:

Expecting a Data Security Company to Do Everything

Some will suggest you should sign up for an ID protection service like LifeLock to keep tabs on your credit activity and send out fraud alerts if a problem is found. Even so, you should keep in mind that identity protection services are not divine solutions on their own. You should still use common sense and protect your personal information. It’s always better to prevent a problem than to have to fix it later.

Relying on Computer Security Software

It’s easy to assume that you’re invincible if you use your computer from behind a firewall or antivirus program. However, this software only works if it has been recently updated and is active. Without paying an annual fee, most computer security programs shut down completely. Even when the fee is paid, the programs must be updated on a regular basis to keep up with malware writers. Set your software to allow for automatic updates for the best protection.

Giving Your Information to the Wrong People

Many scammers work by tricking you into outright telling them your important info. The only time it’s OK to give this info out is if you have started the conversation, and done so with a company you know is reputable, reports Prudent Money. Even then, be careful – a common trick is to send correspondence or emails that look like they come from the right place, but actually lead to a fake website or phone number. Check, and double check the source of the emails especially in your LinkedIn or other social media inbox to make sure you do not fall for any scams. More than likely, if they are asking for information as personal as your social security number or address then it is best to stay away.

Accessing Accounts Through Email Links

It’s simple to make a link say whatever the sender wants it to. Scammers take advantage of this by labeling links to their bogus sites with words that look more legitimate. To avoid this scam, known as phishing, always be sure to manually type the genuine Web address into your browser. Often, you’ll find that the official site has no notice that’s anything like the one in the email you received. That’s your tip that the email was faked.

Thinking “Free” Means Free

When it comes to software, “free” is often anything but. Consumer Reports states that spyware, viruses and other malware are included in the package – the “free” part is just a come-on to get you to download it. While this is a huge problem with software that isn’t supposed to be free but is anyway, such as that downloaded from the Pirate Bay, it is also a big problem with supposedly-legitimate programs. Be especially wary of games or any other kind of software you wouldn’t want to be caught using at work.

Occasionally I allow guest bloggers to share their knowledge with my readers.  These posts are not sponsored and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of this blog.  However, I take pains to make sure that only informative content appears on this blog.  As always, I appreciate your feedback.  If you are interested in submitting a guest post, let me know via the contact form.  Guest post pitches that are overly salesly or do not offer value to my readers will be ignored.

The above story was written by Helena Bequette.  She blogs about finance and accounting.

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