Common sense can protect you from identity theft
As most know by now, identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes today. Contrary to popular belief, ID theft is not, however, a new phenomenon. The reason for its acceleration, however, can be directly tied to technology. Most ID theft nowadays is accomplished by tricking people into giving up sensitive bits of information. This is almost always accomplished via e-mail.
It's not just the feeble minded who fall prey to ID theft. But there are some simple steps that all of us should follow to help reduce the chance of falling prey to an online identity thief
First, be vigilant. Any message that asks you for sensitive information, such as date of birth, Social Security number, password, PIN, should automatically raise a red flag. It doesn't matter who appears to have sent it. Faking the "sender" or "sent from" fields is one of the easiest tricks in the book. We recommend simply ignoring such messages. No legitimate entity in America would ask for such information via e-mail, and, further, anyone who penalizes you for not responding to such a request is someone you probably don't want to do business with anyway.
By now, most folks know not to directly open attachments in e-mails from unfamiliar senders. Something many people overlook, however, is that you should also be careful clicking on links embedded in such messages. Many times, such links are bogus and take you to sites that look like the real thing but of course are fake. If you really want to check something out that's provided by an embedded link, go to the official web site of the sender. With a little bit of poking around, you ought to be able to find what you're looking for.
Similarly, avoid filling out forms embedded in e-mails. Like links and attachments, embedded forms can be easily programmed to appear legitimate but instead redirect the information to the bad guys.
Another good rule to follow is read the message carefully. Most every online ID thief manages to misspell at least one word, or use questionable grammar. While typos can happen to the best of us, most legitimate organizations have proofreaders. If there are multiple typos and grammatical errors within the message, chances are very high that it is a scam.
Probably the best guideline to follow, however, is to take technology out of the picture. Imagine a situation where you are being asked for information anonymously, over the phone, via the U.S. mail, or even in person. Would you consider giving such information to the inquirer? If you even have to think twice about it, the answer is probably a resounding "No!"
is president of ISDI Technologies Inc., a Honolulu-based IT consultancy. Call him at 944-8742 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org