ICFE eNEWS #11-23 - May 16th 2011

Tips on Protecting Your Online Identity from the ICFE.

If you aren't concerned about someone stealing your online data, you should be. If you have internet access, you are a potential victim of having your personal information stolen. In the past few years, hackers have broken in and obtained the account information of millions of consumers.

Two separate major hacking incidents occurred with Sony over the past three weeks. Hackers may have stolen personal information from approximately 25 million accounts from Sony Online Entertainment. In a separate attack on the PlayStation Network and Qriocity, sensitive details were at risk for 77 million customers, according to CNN. Personal information included name, address, email address, birthdate, PlayStation password and log in. In addition, the hackers may have stolen password security answers and credit card information.

Sony is certainly not the only major corporation to be the target of a massive heist. Last year, 130 million accounts were stolen from a payment processing company, Heartland Payment Systems. In 2007, 46 million accounts were stolen from TJ Maxx and Marshall's. Even MasterCard had 40 million accounts compromised in 2005.

Here are some steps and precautions you can take to protect yourself from online hackers:

1. Change your passwords from time to time. Don't publicly post anything you may use as a password: your birthdate, pet's name, mother's maiden name, or your school. Identity thieves can use the information you post to guess your password.  Consider using something like: a free password generator and password safe.  An example would be KeePass by SourceForge which is an open source.

2. Do not email your credit card number to anyone. Currently, there are many phishing scams using Sony's name. Sony, or any other company, will not contact you and ask for your social security number, credit card number or other personal information. Be cautious about opening any attachment or downloading any files from email you receive, regardless of what company sent them. You can forward phishing emails to spam@uce.gov.

3. Monitor debit and credit cards for suspicious purchases at least weekly. If you feel your card information was stolen, consider canceling your linked card. Be persistent with watching your accounts--it may be months or even a year before thieves actually use your card.

4. Check your credit reports. You can get one free credit report every year from each of the three credit bureaus. Visit AnnualCreditReport.com or call (877) 322-8228 to order. Stagger these reviews throughout the year in order to catch anything that isn't correct in your account.

5. If you use a wireless router, password protect it and enable the encryption to scramble the data you send online.

6. Use your credit card instead of debit card. Credit cards offer stronger fraud and identity theft protections. This is as simple as marking "credit" on the transaction machines at most stores.

7. If you feel your information has been compromised, place a fraud alert at the three major credit bureaus. Call Experian at 888-397-3742; Equifax at 800-525-6285; and TransUnion at 800-680-7289. You can put a security freeze on your files.

8. Ask your credit union or bank if it has free software to protect your online banking and  bank account.

9. If your information has been stolen, file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. The data is used to create a picture of wrongdoing. Unfortunately, the FTC won't get your money back.

10. Consult with a Certified Identity Theft Risk Management Specialist (CITRMS®) to assist you in personalizing your identity theft prevention actions.  These highly skilled professionals are trained and certified by the ICFE.  More information is available at ICFE.info

ICFE eNEWS is available FREE upon request by visiting our Web site and filling out the contact form, with the words "eNews request" included in the comments field. Please pass this eNEWS on to your peers and interested others and invite them to subscribe for free.

Sent by:

Paul Richard
President - Executive Director
Institute of Consumer Financial Education (ICFE)

ICFE - Institute of Consumer Financial Education - ICFE.info - 619.239.1401