What's in a name? Possibly thousands of dollars. That is the word of the agents of law enforcement that says Americans lose millions to identity theft each year.
The term "identity theft" refers to a crime in which someone steals your Social Security number or other private information. The offender uses that information to charge items or services on credit or simply steal money from your bank account. Thieves often operate online, making it especially important to take precautions when surfing the Web.
A new book called "Geeks on Call Security and Privacy: 5 minutes Arrangements" (Wiley, $ 14.95) can help protect your identity. We offer expert advice on securing your computer, and simple, step by step explanations of topics ranging from viruses and spyware stop backup of your data. The book explains these tips and others in detail:
Encrypt your computer data
If the computer contains the financial statements, credit card numbers, business documents, names and addresses of friends and family or other private information, consider using encryption software.
Social Security Numbers
Never use your Social Security number as a login on a website and do not give your Social Security number if an unsolicited email request.
Avoid automatic logins
Some Web sites offer to save your username and password so you can avoid the problem of logging in over and over again. However, saving this information may make it easier for a thief to steal your identity.
Always log out
Before leaving an Internet account (online banking, bill payment, etc.), be sure to click on "Exit" or "Log Out" button. This closes the session on the site and prevents someone in to your account by clicking the Back button on your browser.
Avoid Credit Card "Auto Save"
Most e-commerce Web sites can store credit card numbers in their databases for future transactions faster. Unfortunately, these databases are often targeted by hackers.