The Internet can be a fast and convenient way to shop for goods or services, exchange information, and to manage your finances. As consumers, we shop for the latest and greatest products, renew our driver’s licenses, even order groceries while conducting our banking from the ease of our home computer or portable device.
Unfortunately scammers are all too aware of these modern conveniences and look for any method to exploit a user into stealing their personal identifying information.
These unscrupulous individuals use sophisticated technologies to grab your personally identifying information (PII), but they also use simple technologies to create flashy and professional looking web sites to lure you into giving up valuable personal or financial information. Many times they use the same software to make professional looking emails that drive you to these fake sites that will ultimately ask you to input your information.
Here are several important tips while shopping on the web:
- Never provide any "optional" information requested on web sites when making purchases.
- Never provide your social security number unless you have independently verified that it is absolutely necessary (e.g., you may need to provide your SSN to check your credit reports on-line).
- Never respond to e-mail or “pop-up” messages on your computer claiming some problem with a credit card, Internet, or other account. Promptly contact your real credit card company or ISP to verify that there are no problems with your account.
- Set up all of your credit card accounts to require a secret password or PIN in order to be used. Do not use common numbers (like birth dates or part of your social security number) or commonly chosen words (such as a child’s, spouse’s, or pet’s name) as passwords or PINs.
- Never store passwords on your computer. Memorize them or keep them in a separate, secure location. Keep reliable, up-do-date, anti-virus software on your computer. There are computer viruses that may come attached to e-mail that are designed to capture personal information from your computer.
- Never post personal or financial information on discussion lists, chat rooms or public bulletin boards or forums, even if they claim to be private.
Tips to avoid online pharming and phishing identity theft scams:
- Never respond to e-mail messages from unknown persons or with suspicious messages in the “Subject” line. Your real bank, credit card company, or Internet service provider will not contact you in this fashion.
- Install good anti-virus software on your computer and download updates for it on a regular basis.
- Install anti-spyware software on your computer.
- Verify that commercial websites you visit offer security features, including encryption technology to protect your personal and financial information. Look for a golden locked padlock icon in the lower right corner of the website, or a website address that begins “https” rather than the traditional “http.”
- Review the website’s posted privacy and security policies. These should describe to how the business in securing your personal and financial information. They should also disclose whether they sell your information to third parties.
- When a website requires you establish a password to access certain payment or other features, it will often ask whether you want them to “save your password.” This is tempting, especially since consumers have to remember so many passwords. However, you should never save important passwords on-line.
If you believe you have been victimized by Identity Theft, contact the Colorado Bureau of Investigations Identity Theft Unit online or by telephone at 1-855-443-3489 (toll free).