Safeguard Your Identity

It would be quite a nasty shock if debt collectors turned up on your doostep demanding settlement of arrears on a loan you knew nothing about and producing a court document authorising them to take away your stuff if payment was not forthcoming. It has happened to some people.

Now most of us think those badly written letters from ridiculously named gentlemen in West Africa, such as Mr. Chuckawamba Segodo who recently wrote to me, are a bit of a laugh. Very few people are naive enough to send provide the bank details Mr. Segodo needs in order to pay millions of pounds into the accounts of people who respond to him, but many of us will be tempted to send off a jokey reply.
Any reply you send will contain enough information in the file header to enabe cyber criminals to install on your computer a trojan horse malware program which will open the “back door” (one of the 64,000 logical ports on your network interface) throgh whick spyware can be installed. The favourite spyware used by criminals are key loggers. These log every keystroke to a temporary file and next time you start your machine a record of everything you have done is sent to a data centre, located we dare to hope, in the magma chamber of an extinct volcano. Be warned, these cyber criminals may appear to be hellbent on world domination but they are nowhere near as charming as your average Bond villain. Any you may have unwitthingly given them enough information to open bank accounts, buy property, take out loans and start fraudulent companies in your name.

Maxing out your cedit cards after stealing your card number is small stuff by comparison.

My friends may have gained the impression I am no great fan of the World Wide Web. Too right I’m bloody not. At its inception the www inherited from its forbears a number of insecurities. That did not matter on the old networks because every user needed an account number and password and those were not issued until the user had been authenticated, usually by the organisation they worked for. Many people have said many times the problems with the web all stem from the fact it was never designed for the uses it is being put to. It was not fit for purpose because nobody could predict what purpose it would have to be fit for.

Sadly, in the years the web has existed, none of the problems have been properly addressed simply because it would not be in the interests of Microsoft and a few other big players to start fixing them.
(People who get tetchy when I attack free enterprise here should remember that the web, with its thriving market in kiddie porn, its cacophony of inane chatter, expanding trade in the tools of cyber crime, climate of bullying and the dumbing down effect it is having on the young, is the ultimate product of unbridled free enterprise.) The web’s popularity was built on the ridiculous notion that we would all get rich by being part of a community where everything was free. The second economic bubble (surely the greatest ever triumph of hope over experience) to be infalted by the hot air from this fallacy is now in the process of imploding. No big names hve gone yet simply because their backers cannot be seen to have made the same mistake twice in les than a decade.

To get back to our point about identity theft though, the frustrating thing is nobody needs to be a victim. A little common sense and a few simple actions will safeguard you.
First look at your Internet settings from Control Panel and make sure you have set the computer to Delete Temporary Internet Files. This file is where key loggers will store the information to be transmitted so by getting rid of the files at the end of every session you stop your data from leaving your computer.
Having done that, a couple of free dowloads will help a lot. Win Patrol is a free program that works by warning you if anybody is trying to change your startup procedures to run a malware program each time you start the computer.
Asquared free is a monitor that works rather like anti virus software in that it scans incoming data or files on your hard drive for known Trojans, worms and netbots. Be careful when exploring the site, emisoft do not make the free download easy to find, but it is worth the effort.
Between Win Patrol and this you will have enhanced security a lot.

Now a few common sense rules.

(1) If you have not asked for it you do not want it
(2) When a message tells you the latest version of Flash player is needed to view a file be suspicious. Genuine web developers will always take care to ensure their web pages are accessible to a wide audience. Genuine flash players are fine but cyber criminals push “cracked” versions into which all sorts of nasties have been added.
(3) You don’t need Quick Time. Much as I dislike Microsoft, Windows Media Player is an excellent piece of software and will render most popular filetypes to your screen.
(4) When somebody you do not know is keed to do you a big favour, ask yourself why.

All these things are ruses to get past your firewall. Yes, you say, I want to load a new flash player. And WHAMMY, you have invited a hacker right past all your security.

So online indentity theft need not be the ogre some people suggest. Remember, there ae fortunes to be made out of selling the kind of information I have just given you.

6 thoughts on “Safeguard Your Identity

  1. Jeez I am so naive I think I have fallen for the Flash player thing, but not recently so my laptop may be ok.

    If I get emails from scammers in Africa I always report them to Trading Standards – don’t care if they can’t do anything, it makes me feel better.

    Thanks for that info. I’ll bet a lot of us are not so clued up as you are. Blessings xx


    1. Thanks hun, I will load it. Nieke was very kind and installed a load of security stuff for me, with a readme file so I would know what to do and when. I follow her instructions faithfully, but I guess you can’t be too careful!


  2. I wrote this last month. I now it’s a long comment but it may be of interest:

    Identity Theft – What it is and how to avoid it!

    In this modern world, many things can be stolen from you. Many people have suffered through burglary or perhaps car theft or maybe even having a wallet or a handbag stolen whilst left unattended. However, there is something else that can be stolen, something very valuable and something you may not think about as valuable. This is YOUR IDENTITY.

    If a criminal manages to steal your identity, the information that is stolen from you may be used to commit further thefts by stealing other items using your name. This is achieved by the criminal impersonating by pretending to be you whilst committing other crimes – for example, to apply for credit cards or other loans or to apply for state benefits or other financial benefits in your name.

    So perhaps you should ask yourself one simple question. “How may someone steal my identity”?

    The answer is very simple. Criminals commit identity theft by stealing your personal information. This is sometimes done by taking documents containing your name, address or other information from you. They may even stoop so low as to remove items or information from your rubbish that helps them commit their crime. The other method sometimes used to steal your identity may involve them contacting you and pretending to be from the government or some other legitimate company they may ask you to divulge personal information using many false excuses.

    Once they have the information they need, the criminal may use it to commit fraud in your name and this may have a catastrophic and detrimental affect on your own financial circumstances. Their action may even result in losses from your own bank or unauthorized spending on your personal debit or credit card. Frauds of this nature cost the government and ordinary law abiding citizens millions of pounds per year.

    If your identity is stolen, you may have difficulty getting loans, credit cards or a mortgage until the matter is sorted out.

    So what can you do to avoid being a victim?

    Treat all your personal data as private and confidential – don’t give it away easily.

    Here are a few more tips that may help you to protect yourself and your family:
    Once any documents are no longer required, destroy them thoroughly. Don’t simply throw them in the trash. Give particular attention to any document showing your name, address or other details before throwing them away. This includes documents such as bank statements, utility bills, pre-filled application forms, chequebook stubs, debit or credit card transaction receipts, even envelopes or a letterhead showing your name and address. Consider buying a domestic paper shredder from a stationery store and get into the good and regular habit of using it to destroy anything containing your name, address or any account numbers or other financial data when you have finished with it.
    Check your bank / credit card statements promptly. Report any transactions you don’t recognize to the bank or card issuer, even if they are only for small amounts. If there is anything on your statement that you did not authorize, act immediately to report it.
    Make sure you formally close any bank or credit card accounts that you no longer require. Inactive or dormant accounts may be reactivated by a fraudster without your knowledge.

    Disclosing your Personal Information
    Always be wary of anyone asking for your personal information, even friendly or official-looking people who stop you in the street or call at your home may not be who they say they are or who you think they are! Always ask yourself a few questions like “Who wants my information, Am I sure they are genuine? Do they really need my personal details?”
    If ever you receive letters or emails requesting personal details, such as your PIN numbers, passwords, pass codes etc., ALWAYS check they are genuine, AND check that the company that is requesting the information is genuine. A legitimate financial company would never request these details from their customers in this way. If you do not believe the request is genuine, do not disclose any information.
    Telephone calls to your home or place of work or even your mobile from someone requesting information. Always ask yourself why is this person or company calling you. Never give information to an unknown caller who can’t prove their identity, even if they do claim to be from your bank. Politely offer to call them back if you have any suspicions.
    Be sure you are dealing with a genuine and legitimate person or company before giving any account details, particularly if they have approached you.
    Never disclose or write down your personal identification number (PIN) or online passwords. Do not store such numbers in a mobile phone.
    Where possible, avoid disclosing your mother’s maiden name or using it as a password – it may be easily discovered. Consider using a less obvious word or name instead.
    Safety of your Personal Documents
    Keep all your important documents, such as your passport, driving license, birth/marriage certificate, in a safe place preferably not all in the same place. These documents are as valuable to a thief as electrical equipment or jewelry and can be easily sold within the criminal market place.
    Keep an eye on your bills and statements and make a note of when they should be arriving. Fraudsters have been known to take over their victims’ bank accounts and change the address. If your bills or statements don’t arrive, inform the bank or company of your concern.
    Protect your post – if you use a central or communal delivery point, collect your post as soon as possible after delivery as someone else may pick it up or open it if you do not collect it promptly. If items of mail regularly fail to arrive, report this to Royal Mail.
    If an important document such as a driving license or passport goes, inform the relevant bodies immediately. Always report the matter to the police if it is stolen.

    A Note about Credit or Debit Cards
    Treat your cards as if they there were cash and sign any new cards as soon as you receive them. Keep a list of all your credit cards (along with account details) so you can notify card issuers quickly in the event they are lost or stolen but remember to keep this information in a safe and confidential place. You should even consider making use of a card protection scheme – for a small fee you can register all your bank and credit cards with the scheme. If ever your cards are lost or stolen, they will contact the card suppliers on your behalf. Ask your bank or credit card company to recommend a suitable scheme.
    Moving Home
    If you move home, inform all the relevant utility companies and other organizations of your change in address. To make sure all your credit accounts move with you, you may request, for a small fee, a copy of your credit file from one of the major credit reference agencies such as Experian or Equifax. This will help you to make sure that you identify all of your accounts and don’t forget those you may not have used for a while. Scrutinise your credit file (or credit report) for accuracy. Check for unauthorized activity, such as new accounts you didn’t open, credit searches by companies you haven’t dealt with or address links to addresses you don’t recognize. You can arrange to receive your credit file regularly to monitor credit applications made in your name.
    Consider using a Royal Mail Re-direct for at least a year to make sure all post is forwarded to your new address.
    Contact your local authority and complete the form to register on the Electoral Register (also known as the Voters Roll) for your new address as soon as possible.
    Try not to allow those moving into your old address to receive your mail or for any of your mail to lie unopened within the empty property. Replacement bank or storecards or even a mail order catalogue arriving at your old address in your name are gifts to fraudsters.
    Traveling Abroad
    If you plan to be away from the UK for some time, inform your bank and other relevant organizations and make sure any post sent to your UK address is dealt with securely. Consider contacting the Royal Mail about its ‘Keepsafe’ service.
    Treat your plastic cards, travelers cheques and passports as securely as you would cash. Always keep them in your hand luggage when traveling – suitcases and rucksacks may go out of sight.
    Make use of safety deposit boxes, if possible.
    And Finally…..
    Remember, there is always someone out to make a fast buck or easy money. By following some simple guidelines to protect yourself and your family you can ensure that they do not damage your good name nor steal the money from any of your accounts.


  3. I still believe that sometimes users allow their identity to be stolen. How many of us really care about safe browsing? Many people would open email attachments named “hi, open me, I’m your friend!” while being aware of possible damage to their computers. Even antivirus and antispyware protection, which is a must have these days, is missing on a lots of PC’s.


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