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How Online Thieves Operate And Ways To Protect Yourself.

September 6, 2016 by  
Filed under Money/Business, Tech/Internet, Weekly Columns

(Akiit.comProtecting yourself from identity theft, used to just involve shredding sensitive letters. However these days, when so much of our lives are online it’s important to keep your digital information secure too. Here are some of the ways online criminals operate, and what you can do to protect against them.

Social Networking

How much information do you have about yourself available online to the public? Social media sites often display things like your name, birthday, employer and phone number. Without the right privacy settings, this information is out there for the taking. In the wrong hands, it can be incredibly easy for criminals to steal your identity. Be wary of the information you have available both publicly and to your extended network (friends of friends). Social media can seem like harmless fun. However, it could cause you catastrophic problems if your information comes under the radar of thieves.

Phishing Scams

Phishing scams attempt to steal sensitive information. The thief attempts to obtain things like usernames, passwords, and financial data. They often present in the form of emails, usually pretending to be a legitimate company. Delivery companies, social networks and 2017black-man-on-laptop_excludebanks are often used. The email from the fake company will take you to a fake login page, made to look like the company they are pretending to be. Once you enter your details, they are then captured, and a thief then has access to your real account. You could also be asked to update things like payment details on the fake page; again the criminal now has access to these. You can spot phishing emails in a couple of ways, firstly by looking at the email address from which it has bee sent. Secondly, legitimate companies usually email you using your full name, whereas phishing emails will say something along the lines of ‘dear customer.’ However, phishing emails are getting smarter. Some will use your name from your email address, so something to be aware of. If you get an email from a company, and you’re not sure if it’s real, NEVER click the link provided. Instead, go through your browser and log in the way you usually would.

Malware and Spyware

Malware and spyware are pieces of malicious code that install onto your browser or your computer without you realising. This can often happen from downloading files or click on links from untrusted websites. Once this code is installed, it can then go about collecting your personal information and sending it back to the thief. Ensuring you have good virus protection software installed on your computer which is kept up to date can help to combat this. There is also a number of theft protection software you can purchase to keep your information secure. You could browse the top 10 ID theft protection companies for more details. If your computer has been infected with spyware, you may notice it is acting unusually. For example, your search bar might have changed, or you may find yourself being directed to different websites. You might see additional toolbars have been installed into your browser, or you could keep getting annoying pop-ups. On the other hand, you may not notice you’ve been hijacked until your information has been stolen. This is why it’s important to be vigilant, address anything that doesn’t seem right. If it’s not an issue you can fix with yourself, you could speak to a computer repair shop.


A keylogger is a kind of surveillance software. It is capable of recording every keystroke you make to a log file. It can record everything from instant messages to emails, and just about any information you type using your keyboard. Keyloggers are embedded in spyware, it is installed on your machine and passes information on to the thief. As with spyware, making sure you are using a good anti-virus software is important. Make sure you are using a firewall which blocks incoming attacks. Another way you can protect against keyloggers is by using a ‘password manager.’ When your password is automatically entered on your machine, it’s not being typed using the keyboard and therefore can’t be taken by keyloggers. It goes without saying that you shouldn’t use a ‘universal password’ either- the same password for multiple accounts. Otherwise, once someone has access to this, then all of your accounts are jeopardised.

Other Ways To Protect Yourself Online

Be vigilant and regularly check through your accounts. This means that if anyone does happen to steal your information and gain access to your bank, you can address it as quickly as possible. Check through bank statements, or sign up for online banking and regularly look through your transactions. Checking your credit report too will also let you know if anyone has obtained credit in your name. Always use secure methods of payment online such as Paypal. That way if there is anything wrong with the transaction, you are guaranteed your money back. Finally, using common sense will go a long way. While thieves are tricky and can catch out even the savviest people, there are many cases where you can avoid being targeted. Think twice before clicking links, don’t visit untrusted websites and protect your personal information.

Staff Writer; Gary Lee

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