Anyone who uses the internet needs to be aware of the constant threat of identity theft, and if you are reading this article, that includes you.  While it used to be that nasty culprits and con artists could not steal an “identity” without physically stealing a wallet or something of the sort, today it can be done just by finding out your password.

Here are a few tips that should help you avoid losing your identity to a scammer:

  1. If a website asks you for sensitive information check the url before putting in any secret passwords.  If the website just says “http” at the beginning of the domain name it is probably not a secured site.  A secure site will have the letters “https” in the url as opposed to “http.”  The https indicates that software security protects the information that you send through the website.
  2. If you get an emails that claims to be from your any financial institution such as PayPal, your bank, or any similarly money oriented organization.  Be careful.  Often scammers send out “phishing” emails, which tell the recipient to click through a link in the email in order to visit whichever financial site that the email claims to be from.  The site that they click to is actually a fake version of the site that was claimed to be.  By “signing-in” to the site, you are actually just giving your information to scammers.  Again, check the url of the site, and make sure that it is what the email claims it to be.
  3. If you ever receive an email from a friend or relative that doesn’t seem quite right it’s probably a good idea to get in touch with them offline and check whether it really was from them.  Even if you get an email from your spouse, you need to be careful these days, because scammers can hack into accounts or do all sorts of other nasty things.
  4. Careful on social sites like Facebook and Twitter- Do you ever wonder about those random people on Facebook that want to be friends with you?  If you don’t know who they are, just assume that they are trying to stalk you.

Now that we live in a new age where a password is an identity, and a computer is all one needs to access yours, it really pays to go the extra mile to guard ones personal information.  Ways that identity thieves are able to obtain information include the following…

  • “Friend”ing you on Facebook, and then finding out about who you are, what you do, and everything about everyone else in your life.
  • Sending “phishing” emails that claim to be from your bank, paypal, or credit card with a link to a fraud website where you are requested to sign in.  By signing in you would actually just be giving away your personal information.
  • The newest type of fraud is called “spear-phishing” where the scammer sends an email claiming to be from your wife or friend, asking you to send them money.  This is not like the old fashioned “help I lost my wallet on vacation” emails that were clear scams, rather the scammer bases their claims on real information which they obtain from your social media updates.

Keep safe!

Adrian Smith writes about everything related to dispute resolution from trial court to arbitration to counseling.  Whenever using ADR services he recommends doing a thorough background check of the arbitrator or mediator.