Top 10 Ways to Arm Yourself against Cyber Criminals!

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Now with the ending of the holiday season, and that the sense of communal joy and cheer has come and gone, we must return our sights to the ever present dangers around us. Last month we discussed the global reach that cybercrime has begun to have; while in this installment we will focus on the intimate topic of identity theft and personal cyber security. In a study done by Norton Security Systems across 24 countries; 431 million adults experienced some form of cybercrime this year, that’s over 1 million every day, and 14 every second! Last year alone, victims and governments were robbed by cyberthugs of a whopping total of $114 Billion. Thieves steal and fraudulently use the names, addresses; Social Security Numbers (SSNs), bank account information, credit card numbers and other personal information of some 10 million Americans each year, according to the Federal Trade Commission.  Although you could employ expensive services or purchase security systems, using your knowledge and awareness you can implement the following 10 free or low cost tools to guard yourself and your loved ones from these invisible yet daunting cyber threats.


Identity theft can come in a variety of forms, depending on the motivation of the criminals. Outside of general financially threatening identity theft, other commonly found incidents include; social media fraud, medical identity theft and shockingly children. Here are 5 cost-free tips for anyone to defend against Identity Theft:

  1. Protect your social security number! Never carry your Social Security card in your wallet, and avoid using your SSN as a personal identifier if at all possible. Although colleges, medical clinics, purveyors of hunting/fishing licenses, employers and other entities often request your SSN, think twice before giving it out.
  2. Check your credit report, as well as your child’s, every 6-12 months to ensure no one has opened accounts in your name. Also, put a fraud alert on your credit report and stay on top of reviewing them often so you can see if there is a sudden change or new account added.
  3. Write “check ID” on the back of your credit and bank cards, as well as ask for printed receipts for all purchases to ensure retailers aren’t allowing any unauthorized use of your money.
  4. Shred any documents that may have your bank account or insurance information, or social security numbers on them before you throw them away.
  5. Protect your physical property, a thief could steal; wallets and purses, mail (including bank and credit card statements), pre-approved credit offers, and new checks or tax information.

Alarmingly, the Norton Security study discovered that 79% of people who reported using the internet more than 49 hours per week were victims of cybercrimes. And, while 54% of adults have reported some form of virus or malware on their computer, only 6 out of 10 adults have up to date security software! Our vulnerability and criminal access points are only increasing as we now have the added concern of mobile-cybercrime, as revealed in a 2011 report, where nearly 10% of adults experienced a cybercrime via their mobile device. Follow these 5 steps to secure your sensitive online information (bank accounts, credit cards…etc.):

  1. Change your password every 30-60 days. Passwords should be at least eight characters; include a combination of numbers, letters and symbols; and not be words related to you. Instead, use a memory device, for example use the first letter of each word and include a date. "Ericka was born in Chicago in 1998." This might make your password "EwbiC1998$" (it is recommended to add a symbol of your choice at the end).
  2. Hide your account numbers, or give them nicknames in case you have any peeping tom’s peering over your shoulder at work or the coffee shop.
  3. Access financial websites through secure servers only, be sure to password protect your at-home internet service and refrain from using free or public access Wi-Fi or Ethernet to log into websites that contain sensitive information.
  4. Beware of e-mail scams, anything that seems too good to be true probably is; such as a request for your banking information to collect a sizable inheritance from a relative you’ve never met, or a “representative” from a site you use regularly asking for your login and password to do maintenance; such as your bank, social media or online shopping sites.
  1. Be cautions when downloading apps to your mobile device, those not made by highly rated companies or reviewed by users may be a virus or hack-ware. Review the privacy policy of the program and understanding what data (such as your location or access to your social network) on your device an app can access before you download it.

As always, be prepared, not scared! The same mindfulness that we at Personal Safety Expert suggest you practice in the real world should be practiced in the cyber world.  Not only are real life crime victims twice as likely to be victimized in the cyber front, but staying informed and aware in both realms heightens your defense and sense of safety!

If you or someone you know has experienced Identity Theft and needs help recovering their identity, COMPLETE THE INFO BELOW for 5 more tips on computer security and a list of non-profit and government websites that aid in identity recovery as well as finding and persecuting the criminals responsible. (don't worry we will NEVER sell your information)

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