Prevent identity theft

Just like burglars and thieves, cyber criminals have many different ways to steal personal information and money. Just as you wouldn’t give a burglar the key to your house, make sure to protect yourself from fraud and online identity theft. Know the common tricks that criminals employ to help you protect yourself from online fraud and identity theft. Here are a few simple tips.

1. Don’t reply if you see a suspicious email, instant message or webpage asking for your personal or financial information.

Always be wary of any messages or sites that ask for your personal information, or messages that refer you to an unfamiliar web page asking for any of the following details:

  • Usernames
  • Passwords
  • Social Security numbers
  • Bank account numbers
  • PINs (Personal Identification Numbers)
  • Full credit card numbers
  • Your mother’s maiden name
  • Your birthday

Don’t fill out any forms or sign-in screens that might be linked to from those messages. If someone suspicious asks you to fill out a form with your personal information don’t be tempted to start filling it out. Even if you don’t hit the “submit” button, you might still be sending your information to identity thieves if you start putting your data into their forms.

If you see a message from someone you know that doesn’t seem like them, their account may have been compromised by a cyber criminal who is trying to get money or information from you – so be careful how you respond. Common tactics include asking you to urgently send them money, claiming to be stranded in another country or saying that their phone has been stolen so they cannot be called. The message may also tell you to click on a link to see a picture, article or video, which actually leads you to a site that might steal your information – so think before you click!

2. Never enter your password if you’ve arrived at a site by following a link in an email or chat that you don’t trust

Even if you think it’s a site that you trust, like your bank, it’s better to go directly to the site by using a bookmark or typing in the site’s address directly into the browser.

3. Don’t send your password via email, and don’t share it with others

Your passwords are the key to your accounts and services online, and just like in your offline life, you should be careful who you give your keys to. Legitimate sites and services won’t ask you to send them your passwords via email, so don’t respond if you get requests for your passwords to online sites.Because your passwords are so important, you should think carefully before deciding to share them with others – even friends and family. When you share your passwords, there is a greater risk that someone may misuse your accounts by accessing information you don’t want them to or using the account in ways you don’t approve. For example, if you share your email password with someone, that person might read your personal emails, try to use your email account to access other online services you might use, like banking or social sites, or use your account to impersonate you. Finally, when you share your password with someone, you will have to rely on them to keep it secure; they may share it with others on purpose or by accident. Moreover, by doing so with or without their knowledge, your information / accounts / money could be in danger!

4. Pay close attention when asked to sign in online

Check for signals about your connection with the website.First, look at the address bar in your browser to see if the URL looks real. You should also check to see if the web address begins with https:// – which signals that your connection to the website is encrypted and more resistant to snooping or tampering. Some browsers also include a padlock icon in the address bar beside https:// to indicate more clearly that your connection is encrypted and you are more securely connected.

5. Report suspicious emails and scams

6. Beware of strangers bearing gifts

A message is probably up to no good if it congratulates you for being a website’s millionth visitor, offers a tablet computer or other prize in exchange for completing a survey or promotes quick and easy ways to make money or get a job (“get rich quick working from your home in just two hours a day!”). If someone tells you you’re a winner and asks you to fill out a form with your personal information don’t be tempted to start filling it out. Even if you don’t hit the “submit” button, you might still be sending your information to scammers if you start putting your data into their forms.