identity theft : Java Glossary

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identity theft
Criminals find out facts about you then use them to impersonate you to buy goods, create fake passports, create fake immigration documents etc. The general insecurity of the Internet has fostered an explosion in computer-based, identity-theft crimes.

How Crooks Get Information

  1. Phishing: Crooks send you an email pretending to be from your bank, PayPal, eBay, Amazon etc. If you click, you are sent to a phony website that mimics the real one. You are then prompted to divulge information including passwords and credit card numbers.
  2. online stores: When you give your credit card information to an Internet vendor, they may put additional charges on it without authorisation, use it fraudulently at other merchants or sell it.
  3. In ordinary retail outlets and restaurants. Clerks write down the number.
  4. Spyware : toy programs that snoop on your computer and send any bank accounts etc. they find to the crooks.
  5. ActiveX : The Internet Explorer browser is dangerous to use because it allows websites to surreptitiously run software on your computer and to install spyware. Ditto for Outlook.
  6. Windows: the security in Windows in made of Swiss cheese, tacked on as an afterthought.
  7. From cracking the websites of vendors and stealing their databases.
  8. Digging through your garbage to look for bills, bank statements, id cards, credit cards etc.
  9. Stealing your mail.

Protecting Yourself

  1. Choose random unguessable passwords of 8 or more characters. Use an unguessable mixture of digits and letters in both lower and upper case. If you are currently using the same password at many sites, you are especially vulnerable to identity theft. Change your passwords every few months, just as you would change your underwear, even if the old ones are perfectly good. I have written a free, secure random password generator that does not send them, even encrypted, over the net.
  2. Credit cards are hopeless from a security point of view. Throw them away and use debit cards instead which at least require a PIN (Personal Identification Number) number. In these days of high tech criminals, it is folly to use anything less than smart cards which use digital signatures. There are common in Europe, but just being introduced into North America.
  3. To project yourself from fraudulent Internet merchants, don’t give out your credit card number online, ever (by phone either). Use PayPal or a similar system like moneybookers. You then divulge nothing but your email address and possibly shipping address to the vendor.
  4. To protect yourself from phishing, be extremely careful clicking a link in an email. Check the browser address bar to be sure you are going to the precise website claimed. It is safer to navigate to the website independently in the browser.
  5. Don’t use IE or Outlook. Turn off ActiveX and JavaScript except at trustworthy government sites. Java however is safe.
  6. Protect yourself from spyware by installing only necessary software and software from known reputable companies. Run a virus/spyware checker weekly.
  7. To protect yourself from the incompetent Windows security system, make sure you check for and apply any security updates each night. Consider using a more secure OS (Operating System), e.g. MacOS or Linux, especially if you have important financial records on your computer.
  8. Check your credit rating every three months to make sure there is no suspicious activity. In the Canada you can check with Transunion or Equifax (I have never used these services). Before giving out personal information to any such service, check them out. I cannot vouch for the integrity of either of those two companies.
  9. If you suspect your identity has been stolen, report the problem to the police immediately. The longer you wait, the longer it will take to repair the damage and the bigger the damage.
  10. In the USA, go to ftc.gov to file reports and learn all the things you have to do if you suspect your identity has been stolen.
  11. Shred any id cards, credit cards, bank statements, bills, library cards, anything that could be of use in establishing a fake id as you before discarding them.
  12. Replace your external mailbox with a mail slot.

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