Online and offline identity theft is a very real concern. It is considered to be one of the fastest growing crimes in the country. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) an estimated 10 million people in the past five years have fallen victim to identity theft in the form of criminals applying for mortgages or credit cards under their names, criminals using the victims’ credit cards and criminals securing utility services. Taken to the extreme limit, identity theft can destroy an individual’s credit rating, reputation and even erode their sense of comfort and security.
How then can you go about protecting your identity when you choose to shop online?
If unsolicited e-mail arrives from a company that you have shopped with in the past, do not click on any links or images that appear in the message. Instead open a new browser window and type in the web address of the company and then from there find out what the offer is all about or login to your shopping account for more information or further instructions. You might want to put in a telephone call to the company if the e-mail seems suspicious to you. At the same time consider installing a state of the art spam filter in order to make sure that phishing e-mail messages do not find their way to your inbox at all.
Why is this so important to do? It is because criminals often send e-mails that look like letters from legitimate businesses for the express purpose of finding unsuspecting customers who will provide them with personal information.
Do everything you can to keep your Social Security number (SSN) as private as possible. It is for your eyes only! When you decide to open an account at a shopping website that you trust it is essential that no part of your SSN is used as a part of the account number that is created for you and/or as part of your ID number. This is very important for the sake of your online safety.
But do not stop there- ensure that every password you have to your bank accounts, e-mail accounts and any other online accounts are kept private. This is the case for both the online world as well as the offline one. There should be no sensitive or private information lying around on your desk at work or at home that prying eyes can discover.