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How to protect your on-line identitiy and bank details

How to protect your on-line identitiy and bank detailsWe all know that identity theft and phishing (trying to get you to put your confidential details into a false web site) are big problems. But how can you avoid being deceived by the fraudsters?

Donít give it away

You should always treat your personal data as being confidential and not be willing to give it away for no particular reason Ė especially on-line. If someone emails you asking for personal information without being prompted be suspicious immediately Ė it may look like a legitimate and trusted source, but your bank will never send you an email to request secure information. Nor should any other trustworthy organisation. If in doubt, pick up the phone. You should be just as wary of similar requests in the post of by fax or phone. Make an excuse and call back.

Donít throw it away

You should also be wary of casting off any document that shows your name, address or other details. This means bank statements, gas and electric bills, and credit card transaction receipts. If this is difficult buy a shredder Ė many high street stores sell them now for around £20.

Donít be obvious

Passwords need to be memorable but it helps if you use upper and lower-case letters and numbers as well. This makes it harder to crack, even if it is based on personal information Ė which identiy theives may well be able to obtain. Change it ever now and then. The same applies to your confidential data key Ė most banks ask for specific characters from memorable information before granding access Ė do the same with this; use a variation of capitals, lower-case and numbers. Security experts also advise you to use something other than your motherís maiden name as your password or memorable information.

Look for the lock

If you are buying from a web site and keying in personal data ad credit card details make sure the the padlock symbol at the bottom left/right of the screen. This makes it difficult for the information you are supplying to be intercepted. Also check that the URL has not changed to something different or unusual. Makes sure that you are using the latest version of your browser and that your security software is up to date. If you have broadband, you can set it up to update automatically. If you donít know how to do this, ask your supplier.

Use a secure computer

The Internet means you can access your bank accounts from anywher ebut make sure that you feel safe about it. PCs in a Internet cafť or other shared resource may not be as secure as your own home PC.

Make your own way there

Donít even think about clicking on emails that claim to come from your bank or another trusted web site. Always key in the URL or use your usual bookmark to find your way to your banking or trading site.

Use anti-spyware as well as anti-virus and firewall software

Spyware can be used to watch what you are doing on the web and send it to fraudsters or simlply to steam personal information. Protect yourself by using anti-spyware packages and making sure that your firewall is properly set up. Avoid keeping sensitive personal information on your computer and, if you canít consider using encryption software to make it unreadable to anyone but you.