How To Protect Yourself From Identity Theft and PC Hackers

Identity theft is rampant these days, and the best way to avoid being a victim is to protect your self in any and all ways possible. You may be aware of some information here, but not all, so please read on, print this article, then implement everything and check mark off when completed. You'll feel safer and more in control.

There are two lists here for you, online and offline protection.

Offline protection

Shred with a criss-cross shredder, everything that has your date of birth, social security number, signature, bank acct #, credit card #, tax ID#, balance transfer checks (unless of course you are planning on using them), credit card applications, etc. I don't go crazy here with mail that just has my name and address on it because that's public info, easy to get and it would be a part time job to do it! Be careful with some credit card companies who have sales/loan/special interest acct information on pages behind your normal account info pages. Often these pages have you full account number on them. Be sure to shred that part of it.

All it takes to run your credit report is your name, address, social security number and date of birth. Do not give your date of birth to anyone you don't have to. Never give your mother's maiden name to anyone except your back and credit card company. If they insist on one, and it's not a large institution, use a fake one; just pick something you'll remember.

Do not carry your social security card with you. Preferably, keep it in a safe at home or safe place no one would look. Don�t give the number to just anyone. Don't carry all your credit cards in your wallet at the same time. Keep only the necessary ones in it. Unless you called the company directly yourself, do not give people over the phone, who claim to be from a certain company, any info without getting some proof first.

Online Protection

Use Mozilla Firefox as your Internet browser 98% of the time rather than Internet Explorer. It's safer. Occasionally, some websites are programmed specifically just for IE, so you don't have much choice.

Install anti-virus, anti-spyware, anti-keylogger software, a firewall and Spoof Stick on your pc. Many ISP's will give you the first 2 listed free. You should use at least 2 anti-spy ware programs. I use 3 and rotate my scans. I also use 2 anti-virus programs, one paid for anti-keylogger and one that's included in my anti-spyware. You can get Spoof Stick free, by downloading it from the Internet, but unless you remember to use it, it's worthless. Here's what Spoof Stick will do; when you go online and click, type or paste a URL (web site address) in your browser window, Spoof Stick will show you what web site you are really on on the top right of the window.

There are hackers that make sites that look like the real thing, to try to get your information or infect you with viruses and Trojan horses. They may send you an email with a link in it saying they need to verify information regarding an account you have. This is called spoofing or phishing. You may actually have an account where they say you do, but it's probably not a real email from the company. Don't click on the links in it. If you think it's real, type in the company URL you would normally use into your browser. Verify with spoof stick you are on their site, in case they got hacked, and if everything looks ok, log in and see if they really need something from you. Get in the habit of always looking at Spoof Stick to verify the web site you are really on.

What's a key logger you ask? Well, they hack your computer, and can track your keyboard strokes, trying to get passwords to your accounts, so they can steal your money and or your identity. Always use the secure random keystroke (SRK) option if there is one. This is a separate keypad you use in a separate window to click on the letters and numbers of your passwords. Key-loggers cannot track it.


Don't use the same passwords for everything! Depending on how many online accts or private membership sites you have, you may use duplicates for a few, if there's nothing really sensitive about the information in them. Always use separate ones for banks, credit cards or online acct like Paypal, e-gold etc. Use combinations of letter and numbers, not words that are easily figured out. Don't use your kids or pets name, your anniversary, birthday or anything other people know. Do not keep the actual passwords written out or typed on your pc. If you have too many to remember them all, as I do, write down a coded version of it and a coded version of the acct name and don't title the page!

I know it's difficult and time consuming to do all these things, but well worth it to avoid having your pc hacked and your identity stolen. If you do, read my article on what to do and what not to do.

Sandra Wellman is the owner of, a web site where you'll find over 50 articles on all aspects of credit, how to get out of debt, identity theft, refinancing, reverse mortgages, student loans, auto loans and personal and business finance. There are also links to help you find the companies we refer to in our articles.te astonishing considering even a police department usually has a delay when performing background checks.

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