You can take some small steps to minimize potential damage from identity theft:
Before identity theft even happens, learn how to safeguard your information at ftc.gov/idtheft. Read more below. What should I do if my personal information has been compromised?The bottom line for online threats like phishing (when you receive an unauthorized email from a company asking for your personal information), spyware and hackers is identity theft. ID theft occurs when someone uses your name, Social Security number, credit card number or other personal information without your permission to commit fraud or other crimes. This is why it's important to protect your personal information. For more tips on how to avoid and detect identity theft, visit ftc.gov/idtheft.Should your personal information be accidentally disclosed or deliberately stolen, OnGuard Online recommends taking certain steps quickly to minimize the potential for identity theft: Place a "Fraud Alert" on your credit reports and review them carefully. The alert tells creditors to follow certain procedures before they open new accounts in your name or make changes to your existing accounts. The three nationwide consumer reporting companies have toll-free numbers for placing an initial 90-day fraud alert. A call to one company is sufficient: TransUnion: www.transunion.com, 1-800-680-7289Experian: www.experian.com , 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742) Equifax: www.equifax.com , 1-800-525-6285 Placing a fraud alert entitles you to free copies of your credit reports. Look for inquiries from companies you haven't contacted, accounts you didn't open, and debts on your accounts that you can't explain.www.onguardonline.gov/topics/spyware.aspx
Spyware is software that is installed on your computer without your consent to monitor or control your computer use. Clues that spyware is on a computer may include a barrage of pop-ups, a browser that takes you to sites you don't want, unexpected toolbars or icons on your computer screen, keys that don't work, random error messages, and sluggish performance when opening programs or saving files. In some cases, there may be no symptoms at all.To lower your risk of spyware infections:Update your operating system and Web browser software. Set your browser security high enough to detect unauthorized downloads. Your operating system (like Windows or Linux) may offer free software "patches" to close holes that spyware could exploit. Set your operating system and security software to update automatically.Use anti-virus and anti-spyware software. Update them regularly. You can download this software from ISPs or software companies, or buy it in retail stores. Look for anti-virus and anti-spyware software that removes or quarantines viruses. It should update automatically everyday.Only download free software from sites that you know and trust. Free software downloads that look too good to be true frequently bundle spyware. Take the time to read the end-user license agreement (EULA) before downloading any software. If the EULA is hard to find — or difficult to understand — think twice before installing the software.Don't click on links inside pop-ups. If you do, you may install spyware on your computer. Instead, close pop-up windows by clicking on the "X" icon in the title bar.Don't click on links in spam that claim to offer anti-spyware software. In fact, ads that claim to have scanned your computer and detected malware are a way to spread malware. Resist the urge to respond to or click on those messages.Install a personal firewall to stop uninvited users from accessing your computer. A firewall blocks unauthorized access to your computer. It will alert you if spyware already on your computer is sending information out.Back up your data. Whether it is text files or photos, back up any critical data on a regular basis in case of a computer crash.If you think your computer might have spyware on it, immediately stop shopping, banking, or doing any other online activity that involves user names, passwords, or other sensitive information. Confirm that your security software is active and current. Run it to scan your computer for viruses and spyware, deleting anything the program identifies as a problem. Visit OnGuard Online's Malware page for more detailed tips.www.onguardonline.gov/topics/malware.aspx
Malware, short for "malicious software," includes viruses and spyware that steal personal information, send spam and commit fraud. Criminals create appealing websites, desirable downloads, and compelling stories to lure you towards links that will download malware — especially on computers that don't use adequate security software. There are ways to minimize the chaos of malware while reclaiming your computer and electronic information.If you suspect malware on your computer:
OnGuardOnline offers a list of security tools from legitimate security vendors selected by GetNetWise, a project sponsored by the Internet Education Foundation.
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