The vast web of information continues to grow exponentially, and it's working in identity thieves' favor. The Identity Theft Resource Center reports that more than 25 percent of its 2012 calls were from people reporting government-related ID theft, says BankInfoSecurity.com. In this type of ID theft, a victim's personal information is stolen and used to fraudulently procure government benefits. This is just one way that identity theft is changing with the times—among the manifold ways that identity thieves get information in this digitally networked world.
Even when people take care to hide their phone keyboards as they type in their passwords, it's possible for identity thieves to intercept sensitive information as it travels across an unsecured Wi-Fi network. When data is transmitted "in the clear," anyone with a specialized program can read the information. Users should always make sure to only choose properly secured networks to do online banking, purchasing and other sensitive activities.
Just as with laptop or desktop based computing, mobile users should also be on the lookout for phishing emails and sites. These emails and sites imitate those of legitimate companies to trick users into entering sensitive information. It can be harder to spot fakes on a smart phone or similar device because the screen is too small to easily see all of the details. To be safe, use the same types of precautions that you would on your desktop or laptop. Never click into a sensitive site from an email. Instead, type the proper address into the browser and navigate directly to it. This will prevent you from being redirected to fraudulent copies.
The next generation of identity theft, according to LifeLock, will be achieved by keystroke logging and malware among others. Malware is a type of program that, once installed on your computer, can log your keystrokes and otherwise steal your personal information. It is often spread through emails and infected websites.
An email with an attachment, especially if it comes from an unknown source, is highly suspect. Usually, the attachment will be a trojan or virus meant to infect your computer. Because some of these criminals make their emails look like they're coming from highly respected sources, it is easy for the uninitiated to end up downloading them and getting infected.
Social networking is a great breeding ground for social engineering. A "friend" can find it easy to trick you into divulging many personally identifying details as part of what seems like a simple, normal conversation, says IdentityTheft.com. Where you live, where you went to school, the name of your first pet and other common security questions can be popped into a chat and seem totally normal. Therefore, it's good idea to either avoid answering these questions or simply be general in your replies.
Another danger of social networking is fraudulent applications. These apps appear to be legitimate, but can actually send your information right to cyber criminals. Be very careful of which apps you allow to access your Facebook or Twitter accounts.
Despite all of these dangers and the risk of identity theft, it is possible to use the Internet safely whether you are on a mobile device or a desktop. Be careful of which information you divulge and who you divulge it to. Also make sure that you are always using a secure wireless network when accessing sensitive sites. With these precautions and common sense, you should have a reasonable amount of safety online and be able to enjoy all of the conveniences of the Internet.Diane Green
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