I remember when I learned that computer viruses were not just some weird electronic byproduct but were actually created by malicious people who sent them out into the world to destroy others' computers. I just couldn't understand it. What was there to gain? Then I learned that, in the case of a virus that allows information to be stolen by an identify thief, the criminal has a lot to gain.
In the world we live in today, we all have to take responsibilty for our "digital footprints" and paper trails in spite of how it seems to be getting harder to erase our cookies and shred our paper small enough. So Rider University professor Robert Lackie's recent talk at PPL was especially useful.
Lackie spoke about identity theft during a Lunch & Learn program at the library. He highlighted many things individuals can do to reduce their risk of being a victim of identity theft, and I wanted to share a few.
First, you have to be sure you are not setting yourself up as an easy target for identity thieves. To assess your risk, click on this link: https://www.privacyrights.org/itrc-quiz1.htm.
Next, ensure your passwords are safe and strong. Lackie suggested http://www.passwordmeter.com as a safe site to test your passwords.
Scam emails that appear legitimate are a common way identity theives get information from their victims. Here is a site where you can test your skills at determining whether an email is fake: http://www.iconix.com.
One of the most important tasks you can do is to review your credit reports (you can get a free one each year from each of the three credit reporting agencies, and, if you stagger requests, you can get a different one every four months). Here is a link to the website to request your credit reports: https://www.annualcreditreport.com. This is the real free credit report company – not that one on TV with the funny commercial.
Still looking for more information on how to protect yourself? Check out http://www.kn.att.com/wired/fil/pages/liststudentpe3.html#cat3 for a hotlist on detecting and protecting your digital footprint.