E-threats to Your Identity – Spyware

28 Jun E-threats to Your Identity – Spyware

Spyware is computer software that is installed on a computer to intercept or take partial control over the user’s interaction with the computer, without the user’s consent.  You’ve unknowingly downloaded illicit software when you’ve opened an attachment, clicked on a pop-up or downloaded a song or a game. Criminals can use spyware to record your keystrokes and obtain credit card numbers, bank-account information and passwords when you make purchases or conduct other business online. They also can access confidential information on your hard drive.

Protect yourself from identity theft via spyware by keeping system and browser software up to date and settings to the highest security level you can tolerate. Install anti-virus, anti-spyware and firewall protection, and keep them up to date as well. When possible use hardware firewalls, often available through your broadband connection router.  Don’t open e-mails from strangers. Spyware can be hidden in embedded attachments and graphics files.  Don’t open attachments unless you know who sent them and what they contain. Never open executable attachments. Configure Windows so that the file extensions of known file types are not hidden.  Don’t click on pop-ups. Configure Windows or your Web browser to block them.  Don’t keep passwords, tax returns or other financial information on your hard drive.

If you suspect your identity may be compromised, place a fraud alert with the three credit bureaus. When you place an alert, you are entitled to a free copy of your credit report. After that, take advantage of the free annual reports the bureaus are required to give all consumers. Stagger your requests so that you get a report every four months.

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