Online Identity Theft

    Ever lose your wallet or your handbag? Or worse, have them stolen? That’s one of the most common ways thieves gain access to your vital information.
    Just take a look through your wallet or purse, how much information do you have about yourself in there? Its scary, right?

    Last year 7,100 victims reported incidents of identity theft in SA. While the majority were taken in by offline approaches, a rising number of online cases are being reported every year. And the number’s growing daily.

    The scary thing is, you might be “shedding” these personal details about yourself online without even knowing it. 

    Here are six handy tips to minimise your chances of becoming a victim of online identity theft...

    So, what can you do to minimise your chances of becoming a victim of online identity theft?

    Well, this week, I’m giving you six handy tips…

    Tip 1: Keep a “clean” email address

    Many of us give out our work or home email address to unknown parties, without even considering the risks. By creating a free “throw away” email address (such as a gmail or hotmail account), you can protect yourself from spammers and identity thieves.

    Tip 2: Turn on cookie notices in your web browser

    Cookies store information on your computer so online retailers can identify you easily when you’re on their website. Why do they want to do this?
    Simple. It allows them to personalise your browsing experience. In many cases, cookies can be really useful since they store your user ID and your password. That way you don’t have to retype these details when you log onto a site.

    But on certain sites, like an online banking site or a shopping site, you should never - under no circumstances - allow them to run.

    Disable cookies through Internet Explorer on a site-by-site basis and delete any cookie that makes you feel uneasy. Tempting as it sounds, instead of blocking all cookie use, configure your browser to allow “session cookies” – this will ensure useful cookies are on, while those that track your history expire when you’re done on the site.

    Tip 3: Don’t get personal

    Don’t reveal personal information to someone you don’t know or have just met. And beware of sites that offer you a prize in exchange for your contact information or other personal details.

    Tip 4: Check the site for this sign

    If you’re buying online, look out for the lock and key icon. It means the company has encrypted the page and no one will be able to see you enter information. (This is especially important when shopping online where you need to give your credit card and CCV number.)

    And always keep invoices. If you’ve bought an item over the internet, print out the invoice and keep a record of it so you can prove what you’ve bought and what you haven’t.

    Tip 5: Inspect the link

    If the site redirects you, especially your bank’s site, check the link very carefully. If you don’t, you may be heading to a “dummy” website. Here the site will ask you to enter your private information under the premise that you’re on a secure site. How do you know if you’re on a “dummy” site? Usually one letter or number is different from the web address you’re looking for – so always check.

    Tip 6: Avoid using the easy option

    When coming up with a password, don’t use your name or birth date. The best passwords include numbers, letters (upper and lower case) and symbols.

    Two free ways to keep yourself safe

    Yes, you can spend hundreds (if not thousands) of rands on anti-virus software. But you can also get decent protection for free. Anti-Virus Guard (, for example, offers good all round free anti-virus software.

    For extra piece of mind, get a basic firewall free from Zone Alarm. And remember, Microsoft also provides users with a built in firewall, so check your settings to make sure it’s up and running.

    As Ruth Jackson puts it: “In short, when it comes to your identity, a bit of care buys a lot of peace of mind.”

    Here’s to your financial freedom!

    By Karin Iten - For the Investment Academy
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