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Six Ways to Protect Your Identity

written by: Donna Buenaventura•edited by: Bill Bunter•updated: 2/4/2011

Whether you’re offline or online you are ought to protect your identity. This article provide guidance in protecting your identity.

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    Why Protect Your Identity?

    Online crime is increasing at a rapid rate and, accordingly, identity theft protection has become a critical subject for everybody. We all have online identification - e-mail accounts, computer name, IP address, message boards and online gaming accounts, instant messaging accounts and many more! Any e-mail message you send have e-mail header that will identify you, your location, your computer and what you use. Instant messaging and browsers send out identification too. Some people believe that there’s nothing to protect by not using the computer to do any online transactions or not saving any financial and important documents on a computer. This is untrue because there are many ways that our identity can be use other than in stealing our identity and financial information. If you frequent discussion boards, you will notice some users reported identity theft and hacked accounts. Some of them received ransom threats after their free web account was hacked and hijacked. What we’ll get if we are careless is nothing but trouble. Dumping an account and creating another is not a solution but a temporary workaround. You’ll go thru the same trouble again and cause annoyance to your friends who may have been contacted before by online scammers while using your accounts. What we need is to prevent anyone to use or steal our identity because scammers can use our identity to steal money, irritate or annoy your contacts, infect and trick other computer users using your account or computer - and the worst part is that they'll be pretending to be YOU.

    Below are six steps you can take that will help keep your identity safe.

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    Six Ways to Protect Your Identity

    Limitation, Analyzing and Decision Making

    Before signing-up on any free or paid online services or before registering your personal identifications to download or use any online services, you should be analyzing what is presented to you. There should be no rush before you will decide to enter, join and use. Even if you trust the site or service, and even if your contacts referred you to it, you should also ask yourself if you need or not the service or program. Most online services and programs have End-User License Agreement (EULA) or Terms of Use; if you are lazy to read those… you can use EULALyzer or do any backgrounds check about the service or program.

    You also need to be choosy where you'll join and limit what you’ll share if you decide to join or sign-up. You do not need to enter your primary e-mail address or write your full name as your login information. It’s best to create a free web-based email account or a secondary account that is not shared to your trusted contacts but only for online accounts such forums, newsgroups, or mailing lists.

    Account Management and Passwords

    Use a strong password and regularly change your password. You use applications that will help you create a strong password. Example: Password Checker

    Some message boards or applications that connect online are offering advanced account options to change your login and display name, allow or not anyone to contact you, and see your online status. Take advantage also of the security and privacy options in any applications or online services before starting to use them. Browsers, e-mails, and all software in general have information about you. You need to configure these applications to limit what it will send about you. Use identification protection such as proxy or security programs that will protect your identification or what you do online. Example: Outpost Firewall by Agnitum has ID Block . KeyScrambler and AntiLogger will protect you from keyloggers.

    Be Aware of What’s Going On

    There are true and untrue information online so you need to be aware by checking what are true and what’s not. Websense is an example of online security alerts service that will provide information on what are the new incidents that might put your computer and identification at risk. Example: A fake bank message that tricks users to entering their bank account information, social security numbers and email address. Another example is a fake private message alert on your MySpace, Twitter, Facebook accounts or a fake message in a website that your computer is infected. By knowing what’s going on, you will prevent your identification to be use or stolen, and hacked. You will never enter any of your personal identification if you are familiar that there is spoofing and scamming going on.

    Secure What You Use: Stack it Up and Back it Up

    Organize the important information that you do not want to lose. Password, license information, e-mail and forum accounts or service information should be kept in private area. Stack up the important items then safely store or back them up in an external or removable drives. Encrypt them using a master password and don’t give-away that master passkey. I can’t wait for Windows 7 because of the BitlockerToGo! While it’s not available yet, we can use alternatives such as KeePass, Dataviz Password Plus, and or RoboForm.

    Maintenance: Get Rid of the Traces and Keep it up-to-date

    Online scammers, spyware and spy sites will eat every available piece just to scam and earn money! To prevent them in knowing about you, regularly clean-up by deleting the browsing and computing history. Scan the system with anti-spyware, anti-Trojan, antivirus or anti-malware. If you have to re-format a hard-drive, you might want to DBAN it or wipe the free space properly. You should also keep everything up-do-date so that the applications you are using who may have privacy and security risk is never leak any information that you enter or use.

    Going Offline?

    If you have to be offline or away from your computer, always password protect it. You can add password in the bios, hard-drive and Windows logon so no other users can steal information from your computer or spy on you. You can also configure Windows to prompt for password if the computer wakes from sleep, hibernation or when exiting the screensaver. If you travel often, never bring a laptop that is not password-protected and if possible, use hard-drive encryption - BitLocker, for example.