Protecting yourself from phishing, part 2

This is the second part of the article on the Day in the Life of a Phisher.

You can protect yourself – here’s how:

Never post any personal information in an Internet forum, chat room, or blog. Doing this allows programs like the one described above to harvest and use it for other reasons. This can be anywhere from full blown identity theft to using your email address as the “From” address in their spam; most likely getting your account closed by your email provider in the process.

Search on yourself. Go out to search engines like Microsoft Live Search and enter your name in the search box. You may be surprised by the results [editor - I'm not, I'm number 1 on Google, Live Search and Yahoo]. Something as innocent as being listed in the phone book can get you listed on the Internet. Each data provider has different methods that you must take to remove the information, if you choose to do so.

Enroll in an identity protection program. Today, every credit card, mortgage, or other lender offers some type of identity protection program. Do your homework and find the one that monitors all three major credit reporting agencies: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion, and which fits in your budget. A good service will send you a proactive report each quarter. The higher-end services offer real time alerts to your phone or email. You should only need one program for all of your accounts.

Change your account information. Changing your password is not enough. You must also change your secret questions and it is recommended that you also change other information. Maybe change your house phone to your cell phone or your house address to your mother’s address. Not every account warrants the same change, but your critical ones do. Put up as many barriers to social engineering phishes as possible.

Ensure you are running virus protection, malware protection, and a firewall. Ensure that they are all current with updates. Although this is now becoming a truth along the lines of you should look both ways before crossing a street, I cannot stress enough the importance of this item. In my days as an independent consultant, I worked with many clients and businesses that could have saved both time and money, in the case of my bill and their lost work, if they had only installed and turned on their security software. Microsoft offers products like Windows Defender and Windows Live OneCare that together offer a unified platform for users wanting to protect their personal information and computer systems.

Don’t let your ATM/credit card out of your sight. This one isn’t easy sometimes, especially in restaurants, but do you best to maintain visual contact with your ATM/credit card at all times. The news of the day is all the online identity theft. That is because the traditional method of manually stealing names and numbers through garbage sifting and unethical service employees is old hat. If your card leaves your sight, be diligent about reviewing your statement. Shred all personal documents, such as account statements, pill bottle labels, and even the pre-approved credit offers, when you discard them.

Own your information. Many people do not realize that they own their personal information. Even more people do not exercise that right. Each pre-approved credit offer is a check on your credit score. Each time you list in your local phonebook’s white pages, you also list in their online directories. The way to maintain and control this information is different in each case. Some are tedious, like removing yourself from all pre-approval lists after buying a new home, to others which are much simpler, like merely submitting a request to the company. At Microsoft, privacy is one of our top concerns and we have a very strict privacy policy. Every employee at Microsoft must complete a privacy training course annually.

In closing…

The scope and prevalence of this crime is that we must protect ourselves and our family. Law enforcement agencies the world over are understaffed and overworked in trying to shut down identity theft rings. Be safe and be sure.  Be the one who is protecting your identity.

Until the next time…

Comments (2)
  1. bb2008 says:

    Nice article… As email has become an integral part of our everyday life, one has to be very careful about phishing mails inorder to protect our crucial data online. I hope these tips will definetely help a lot for sure. I also read another nice article about recognizing phishing scams and fraudulent mails, which can be found at:

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