Daily Q&A: How can I make sure the spam e-mail I get doesn't lead to identity theft?

I keep getting hit with all of these spam e-mails. What kinds of things should I do or not do to protect my personal information in regard to e-mails and while on the Internet in general?

Hackers these days are using countless tactics to access your personal information, in particular through e-mail. They are hacking into friends' e-mails and sending messages as well as preying on people with scam offers.

Here are some tips from Verizon about handling questionable e-mails and some other Internet concerns:

• Click with caution. When checking e-mail or instant messaging, be careful not to click on links in messages from people you don't know. Such links could connect to phony websites designed to solicit personal information, or they could download Trojan horses or other malware designed to steal personal information. Even if the message is from someone you do know, it could still contain a computer virus; check with the sender if you have any concerns about the validity of the message.

• Education. Educate yourself about the types of scams on the Internet so that you are better equipped to defeat them. Read up on the latest phishing scams, for example, and learn how to recognize them.

• Use a firewall – Firewalls monitor traffic between your computer or network and the Internet and are your first and best line of defense. Most operating systems come with a firewall, but it won't help you if you don't activate it.

• Be skeptical. Many victims of scams may have thought they were cybersavvy and let their guard drop long enough for a cyberthief to strike. Back up data regularly in case a virus infects your computer, and monitor accounts and credit reports to make sure your identity has not been stolen.

• Secure wireless networks. Don't let your home network's wireless router be a welcome mat for hackers. Enable the firewall on your router and regularly change the router's administrative password. Check the support section of your ISP's website or your router manufacturer's website for instructions on how to take these precautionary steps. And make sure your router has a strong encryption, such as WPA or WPA2.

Question for the Consumer's Edge? Send it to ipenn@sptimes.com or twitter.com/consumers_edge. Questions are answered only in this daily feature.

Daily Q&A: How can I make sure the spam e-mail I get doesn't lead to identity theft? 07/16/10 [Last modified: Friday, July 16, 2010 12:13pm]

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