Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

Follow these steps to protect yourself from identity theft whether you’re at home or travelling ?

Credit: Flickr/freedryk

Prevent identity theft at bank machines by protecting your PIN number!

Cyber crime and scamming opportunities abound both when travelling and at home. Here are some tips for keeping your information — and bank account — safe

Online crimes are a growing problem. In the U.S. alone last year, more than half a billion dollars were lost due to fraud perpetrated through the Internet. That’s up from just over US$264 million in 2008.

One of the most popular online travel frauds can occur even in the safety of your own home. “Phishing” is when a criminal sends a message identifying him or herself as someone you know, claiming they are away travelling, in an effort to get personal data or money.

For example, you might receive an e-mail that appears to be from a friend or colleague saying they’ve lost their luggage and need you to send money to help them out. Problem is, the e-mail isn’t coming from who you think it is.

Travellers are also vulnerable to keystroke-logging software, which records each character typed on a computer in a public space, such as a hotel business centre or an Internet café.

And you don’t have to be using an infected computer to lose your personal info. An unsecured wireless network at an airport or resort can allow hackers in as well.

How to Keep Your Info Safe from Identity Theft

View any e-mails or other electronic messages with requests for personal identification, financial information, user names or passwords as suspicious. If you feel it’s truly necessary to provide such information, go to your bank or credit card company’s site directly. Never follow a link embedded in an e-mail.

  • Always stay away from unsecured computers in public areas. If you log on to a public wireless network, don’t conduct any secure transactions and be sure to log off the network when you’re done.

  • When it comes to those suspicious e-mails, a good way to identify those that aren’t legit is to watch for poor grammar. Many of these scams originate in countries outside North America where English is a second language and oftentimes that’s easily detected in the awkward language or phrasing.

  • If you’re truly not sure whether the e-mail is legitimate, get in touch with the person it claims to be from by phoning, e-mailing at a secondary address or going through a social networking site. That should be enough to get to the bottom of the scam.

Watch out for Shoulder Surfers

One more thing to watch for is shoulder surfers. These are the scammers who will stand behind you and surreptitiously peek over your shoulder in an attempt to collect your sensitive data.

Shoulder surfers have been known to gather people’s PINs at banking machines, record the numbers off people’s calling cards, and take note of passwords as they’re being entered on computers.

Just to be safe, always cover 
your keyboard from public view when you’re typing in passwords or other important information.

Originally published in TV Week. For daily updates, subscribe to the free TV Week e-newsletter, or purchase a subscription to the weekly magazine.