If you're like most people, you likely worry about identity theft whenever you have to enter your Social Security number (SSN) online. However, with the right measures, an Internet transmission is actually safer than mailing in your Social Security number or filling out a paper form. With a few precautions, you can prevent identity theft when entering personal information online.
1. Prevent identity theft by visiting the company's official site. Legitimate companies use an SSL transmission to protect your information. If contacting the IRS or credit agencies where entering your Social Security number is a requirement, verify that it is not a phishing site. Con artists can also create sites with SSL transmission. Don't enter any information if you receive a link in an email. Instead, look up the official site yourself.
2. Use a Secure Browser. Install Windows XP or Vista on your computer to protect yourself from identity theft, as earlier Windows versions are not safe. Avoid using a public computer (at a hotel or library). Public computers generally don't have a secure connection. Moreover, criminals can easily compromise public computers.
3. Install the most recent Microsoft security patches. Security patches address vulnerabilities in Windows, as well as in other Microsoft programs.
4. Enable Windows updates. It will automatically install security patches to protect your computer and your data. Having the most current Windows updates reduces the possibilities of your computer being hacked and stealing your identity.
5. Install a minimum of two anti-spyware programs. Your computer needs a firewall and an antivirus to protect your personal data and prevent identity theft. Update your spyware programs regularly to prevent Trojans, malware and viruses from infecting your computer.
6. Obtain a free credit report. The three major credit reporting agencies are Transunion, Experian and Equifax. You can obtain a free copy of your credit report from each agency once a year. Experts suggest requesting a credit report every four months from a different agency. For example, request a copy of your report from Transunion. Request a report from Experian four months later. Wait another four months and request your free copy from Equifax. This way you can check your credit regularly to ensure that no one has stolen your identity. Additionally, you qualify for a free credit report if a company denies you credit.
With the right cautionary measures, you can use your computer with peace of mind knowing that your personal data such as your social security number
- Request a free credit report within 30 days of receiving a credit denial letter.
- Occurrences of identity theft normally occur when a company's system is breached and information is stolen from its database. Another instance that leads to identity theft is improper disposal of forms containing customers' personal information.
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