A report published recently by IC3 (Internet Crime Complaint Center), provides a lot of insightful tips to those who often engage in Internet commerce. The study was carried out in cooperation with the FBI, the National White Collar Crime Center, and the Bureau of Justice Assistance(Sony Vaio VGN-FZ31B battery).

The study is extremely useful, as modern life is a path that will inevitably intersect with the Internet, whether we want it or not. The web helps us - consumers, do things faster and easier; the problem is that fraudsters get the same benefits(Sony VGN-FZ18L battery). As a result, if you fall for an Internet scam, the damage can be of a greater magnitude, and it can be inflicted upon you so quickly that you won't even notice it happened. Here are some numbers that put things in perspective(Sony VGN-FZ140E battery):

From January 1, 2007 to December 31, 2007, the IC3 website received 206,884 complaint submissions. This is a 0.3% decrease when compared to 2006 when 207,492 complaints were received(Sony VGN-FZ62B battery).

The total dollar loss from all referred cases of fraud was $239.09 million with a median dollar loss of $680.00 per complaint(Sony VGN-FZ70B battery).

This was an increase from $198.44 million in total reported losses in 2006.

Email (73.6%) and web pages (32.7%) were the two primary mechanisms by which the fraudulent contact took place(Sony Vaio VGN-FZ31J battery ).

It is highly recommended that you look through it and study the charts, and the recommendations section, which explains how to deal with such cases, as well as prevent them from happening. The remaining part of this article focuses on the issue of identity theft, which sadly was not given enough attention in the survey(Sony VGN-FZ145E battery).

It is interesting that the study concludes that identity theft is one of the smaller troubles, as shown in the chart below(Sony VGN-FZ230E battery).

Such a state of things is quite strange, because another study (the Computer Security Institute survey for 2007) found identity theft a much more serious problem. Could it be so that the victims of identity theft are not yet aware of their status(Sony Vaio VGN-FZ21S battery)?

Another possible explanation is that the scope of the IC3 report is simply different, it focuses on issues that occur after a transaction is complete (i.e. it is assumed that everything was ok before the final click in the process) (Sony VGN-FZ18 battery), while the truth is that identity theft has much more serious consequences. There is no need to use fake cheques, there is no need to engage in a long conversation with a "Nigerian scammer", nor there is a need to get involved in auction bidding(Sony VGN-FZ190 battery). With your data in their pocket, a fraudster can do anything in a clean way - the sellers will not suspect that something is wrong, because from their point of view, they are dealing with an honest person, and everything is legal(Sony VGP-BPS9/B battery).

Identity theft occurs when someone else uses your personally identifying information without your knowledge or permission, to obtain credit cards, loans and mortgages, buy various products on your behalf, leaving you responsible for the consequences(Sony Vaio VGN-FZ31S battery).

To minimize the risk of identity theft, you have to make sure that all the ways in which an identity can be stolen (attack vectors) are taken care of(Sony Vaio VGN-FZ38M battery).

If you use a public computer for online banking transactions (ex: buy merchandise or purchase tickets for travel, concerts, or other services) (Sony Vaio VGN-FZ31Z battery):

First of all, avoid using public computers, perform all the tasks that involve dealing with sensitive data on your home PC;

If you are forced to use a public computer, you can be the target of a keylogger, or the target of malware running on that workstation(Sony Vaio VGN-FZ31M battery). There is no guarantee that the computer does not have any harmful programs installed there on purpose. You need a tool such as Password Carrier, which will automatically fill in the forms on the web-sites and in Windows programs - thus keyloggers won't capture your passwords and other personal information, because you don't have to type anything by hand(Sony VGN-FZ220E battery).

If you store personal information in your home computer, there is a chance that it will be compromised (ex: if your antivirus or firewall failed), or that someone who uses the computer inadvertently ran an unknown (and malicious) program or an attachment that came with an email(Sony VGP-BPS18 battery).

Make sure that all the sensitive files on the system are stored in encrypted form, so that they cannot be copied by someone who connects to the computer remotely. Use Private Disk to encrypt your files(Sony VGN-FZ17 battery);

Use additional protection offered by Disk Firewall, to ensure that trusted but compromised programs won't allow an attacker to access private data(Sony VGN-FZ11S battery);

As in the previous case, it is a good idea to use Password Carrier, because it takes a lot of expertise to thoroughly study a system and say "this system is 100% clean, no viruses, no spyware, no malware of any kind"(Sony VGN-FZ180E battery). If you are not one of those who can check their own computer and guarantee that it is clean, then Password Carrier will definitely help you(Sony VGN-FZ31E battery).

Social engineering is another instrument an attacker can use to steal your identity. Why install various malicious tools and risk getting caught, when you can just go ahead and directly ask what you want? Due to the way our brains are wired, this approach is very often effective(Sony VGN-FZ61B battery)!

Be careful when someone asks you for personal information; it is good to be suspicious, so do not be afraid to question what they intend to do with this information(Sony Vaio VGN-FZ18M battery);

Always double-check the information you are about to submit, sometimes a detail that seems unimportant can actually make a difference. If you don't know whether some data are sensitive or not, treat them as sensitive and do not disclose them(Sony VGN-FZ150E battery);

Examine the privacy policy of the services that are used, in order to find out how they store and apply your data. In addition, if you are dealing with an intermediate party, they might request other, apparently not important data; if you know which details are needed by the service that does the actual processing, you will be able to find out whether the intermediate party requested data which they don't normally need(Sony VGP-BPS13 battery);

Cautiously share your personal information with your friends and colleagues. You may trust them, but are you sure they won't accidentally (or even intentionally) share your details with other parties? Is your friend aware of the existing threats? If you are not sure, then you should think twice before handing out passport numbers, addresses, phone numbers, etc(Sony VGP-BPS10 battery).

Conclusions

The Internet is a dangerous place, don't forget that.

It is a good thing to be a little bit paranoid, when not sure whether you really understand what is going on, take your time to ask someone in the know, or read the available documentation(Sony VGP-BPL15 battery).

Software can assist you in protecting your privacy, programs such as Private Disk and Password Carrier will make your life safer, and easier.

Keep track of your expenses, to find out if you are already a victim of identity theft before it is too late(Sony VGP-BPL11 battery).




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