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Tips for Safe Computing and Preventing Identity Theft
Keep your operating systems and internet browsers current, by downloading the most recent system software fixes for security issues. You can visit the official website for your internet browser in most cases to obtain free updates.
Install and regularly update anti-virus, firewall and anti-spyware software, such as McAfee VirusScan and Spybot Search and Destroy. Select security settings, including the disabling of pop-ups, as appropriate.
Do not open emails, attachments or images from unknown senders; do not download software or use links embedded in emails from sources you don’t trust. Any of these may be fraudulent, and may infect your computer with spyware.
Do not choose the option to have passwords “remembered” by your browser; spyware can find and send this data to fraudsters.
Never reply to requests for personal information via email. Any email or unsolicited phone call requesting personal information from a legitimate company should be considered suspect; rather, initiate contact with the company directly using a phone number or web address you know to be genuine. Remember that confidential, identifying information should never be sent in email, even to a genuine address, as email is not a secure communication.
For websites your regularly visit, type the web address into your browser. Once you’ve confirmed the address is correct and the site is legitimate (no odd graphics, distorted logos, slightly modified web-address, etc.), then bookmark the site, and only access the site through the saved bookmark.
Look for the padlock icon on the browser’s status bar (lower right) and a web address including https:// to indicate a secure connection before sending any financial information through a website.
Review all account statements regularly and promptly to ensure all transactions are authorized and correct. If your statement is late, call your financial institution to find out why. If your bills or statements include questionable items, contact the issuer immediately to investigate. Use online account access (like Online Banking) to review activity between statements for legitimacy.
Report lost or stolen checks, ATM/debit cards and credit cards immediately. Do not keep written copies of PINs for cards or online banking, and safeguard ATM receipts.
Shred any financial solicitations (e.g. direct mail credit card applications) and bank, investment and credit card statements before disposing of them.
Obtain your free annual credit report from the major credit reporting agencies, and periodically review your file to ensure the information they report is correct. Ask the agencies to place a fraud alert on your credit file if you feel you have been, or may reasonably be, at risk for identity theft. To obtain your annual free report, visit www.annualcreditreport.com, or call 877.322.8228. Contact the three reporting agencies via:
Report any suspicious email or other activity to the Federal Trade Commission. Send the actual spam email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Learn more by visiting the FTC’s identity theft website at www.ftc.gov/idtheft or call 1.877.FTC.HELP (1.877.382.4357).
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