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9 ways to avoid cybercrime

Online efforts to steal your identity and your money are proliferating. Here's what you can do to minimize risk.

By Karen Datko Sep 14, 2011 1:51PM

Cybercrime is so pervasive -- claiming 14 victims worldwide every second of the day, according to a new report -- that you must actively guard against being taken by online crooks.

 

How can you protect yourself? Consider these nine suggestions: Post continues after video.

  • Don't click on links in suspicious emails, even those that appear to be from friends. Emailed viruses and malware are the most prevalent cyberthreat of identity theft. Just think of how many emails you've gotten in the last year that appeared to be from friends whose email accounts were hijacked.
  • Know how to recognize phishing. Your bank won't send you an email telling you that your account has been compromised and asking you to provide sensitive account and personal information it already has. The FBI and Internal Revenue Service won't do that either. These are phishing attempts.
  • Recognize that your smartphone is really a pocket-size computer and is prone to the same types of attacks directed at your laptop and desktop. Take steps to protect it, such as keeping your operating system current and creating a strong password.
  • Keep your personal information to yourself. For instance, don't put your entire birth date, including the year, on Facebook. Think about the security questions normally posed by your bank and other secure locations: "first school you attended," "name of favorite pet" and the like. Are your answers on display online?
  • Know the pitfalls of public Wi-Fi.CreditCards.com says, "Avoid public wireless Internet connections unless you have beefed-up security protection."
  • Beware of public computers, too. For instance, Kiplinger says, "Don't access your accounts or personal information on public hotel computers, which could have software that logs keystrokes and records your passwords and account numbers."
  • Use credit cards, rather than debit cards, when making purchases online. In case of fraud, you'll get much better protection from liability with a credit card.
  • Purchase only from reputable websites (and look for "https" in the Web address). "It is really easy to create a fake online store or to create a store that sells stuff, but its real purpose is to collect credit card information," former identity thief Dan DeFelippi told CreditCards.com.
  • Check your accounts and your credit reports regularly. Some experts recommend that you check bank account and credit card activity every day. You can pull a free credit report every four months from AnnualCreditReport.com to verify that fraudulent accounts have not been created in your name.

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