Eight Surefire Ways to Become an Identity Theft Victim

Friday, May 2, 2008

SANS Institute Security Newsletter for Computer Users
Volume 5, Number 5 May 2008

Eight Surefire Ways to Become an Identity Theft Victim-

--Practice unsafe surfing. When you purchase a new computer, go online without activating the firewall, or purchasing protective software.

Further expose yourself digitally by sharing a wireless connection with the entire neighborhood. Without digital encryption, you can share the contents of your hard drive with anyone on the street. For maximum risk, do some online banking on a public computer -- like the one at the library or a public cafe. Bonus points are added if your Social Security number is your user ID for any transactions. -

--Skimp on anti-virus and anti-spyware protection. Courting disaster online is easy. Invite malicious code to attack your computer simply by doing nothing. Antivirus programs can be pricey, and the maintenance of constantly downloading updates is time-consuming. Combine that with the security updates from Microsoft or Apple and it's enough to seriously annoy anyone. -

--Passwords are a pain! Make life easy for yourself by using the same password for EVERYTHING, and make it something easy to remember, like your first name or 'password'. Just in case, make sure you write it down on a yellow sticky and put it somewhere easy to see.

And don't forget to have your browser set to 'remember password' to make life easy for you - and the cyberthief. -

--Peek at junk email and open attachments from unknown sources. Open attachments from strangers, secret crushes, long-lost friends saying "what's up," or strangers hawking cheap drugs -- you'll never know unless you peek at that email. One of the many fun things that can happen when you open an attachment containing malicious code is infecting your computer with a Trojan horse or virus, which can easily lead to identity theft. -

--Stuff your wallet with juicy identifying tidbits. Wallets and purses are more than just handy cash-carrying devices. They often have credit cards, identification, insurance information and even Social Security cards. Obviously, more is better if you'd like to become the prey of fraudsters. Losing or misplacing a wallet or purse can cause more problems than just the hassle of replacing all those cards and buying a new bag. Armed with your date of birth, Social Security number and mailing address, there's no limit to the damage thieves could cause. -

--Make your checks payable to criminals. If you're like most people, you wouldn't post your checking account information on your front door, though you should if you'd like to be a victim of fraud. Similarly, checks reflecting the same information can be dropped casually into unsecured mailboxes. Statistically the chances of your mailbox being targeted by criminal elements are low, but not that low. According to the 2008 Identity Fraud Survey Report from Javelin Strategy and Research, almost 1 in 10 victims of identity theft who can pinpoint the scene of the crime say that it happened at the mailbox. -

--Opt out? Opt in! While you're mailing checks from the unlocked mailbox, go ahead and get credit card companies to send you all the pre-approved offers that the postman can cram into the box. Similarly, don't get credit card statements online; leave them on the side of the road so that they're more convenient for fraudsters who lack the technical knowledge or follow-through to launch complicated hacking schemes. -

--Nothing is too good to be true. Everyone wants to feel special and maybe more importantly, filthy rich. When reading an emailed proposition from an African business tycoon, an imperiled prince or downtrodden heiress offering millions of dollars in exchange for some small measure of assistance, it's difficult not to wish it were true. Falling for the story will undoubtedly lead to unpleasantness.

Source: SANS Institute Security Newsletter


Amanda May 3, 2008 at 4:03 PM  

Are you telling me that my 2 passwords are not enough? I need to have a different one for everything I do?

Julie May 11, 2008 at 5:39 PM  

I LIKE feeling victimized throughout my entire life. Thanks for the helpful hints- I was running out of ideas!