The easiest ways to prevent identify theft on your PC

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Since the internet is everywhere in our lives, there are even more opportunities for people to steal your identity. Shopping, banking, and social contact have all largely moved online, which means that the person you’re talking to over the internet may not be who he or she claims to be. Here are some of the easiest ways to prevent somebody from stealing your identity over the internet.

Be aware of your surroundings in a public place: Many of us, when bored in a public place, will immediately turn to our phones for entertainment. But how often do you think to check for ‘shoulder-surfers’ before logging into some of your online accounts? Most people don’t, which means that the wrong person can quickly gain access to your accounts simply by watching you type in your password. If you’re at an airport, or using a public computer, be sure to shield your screen from any nosy onlookers.

Use HTTPS whenever possible: More and more websites are beginning to offer HTTPS service, which allows users to discretely browse the internet without the threat of somebody else on the network looking in. While banking websites have used HTTPS for a long time, social networking websites like Facebook and Twitter are increasingly jumping on board. If you absolutely have to access your banking information over a public Wi-Fi signal, then HTTPS is the safest way to go.

Physically destroy your computer’s data storage devices: No matter what you do to your hard drive, if it remains physically intact, some of your files may still be available to somebody who wants to access your personal information. If you’re considering selling an old laptop, download special software that will permanently delete that data from your drive. Or, better yet, physically destroy the hard drive to make it completely inaccessible.

Beware of Peer-to-Peer networks: Any time you share files across an internet connection, the other user will likely be able to see your IP address. In fact, this is what some media companies are doing to protect their copyrighted material: collecting the IP addresses of internet users via peer-to-peer software and then reporting them to their Internet Service Provider. While the things that you can do with an IP address are fairly limited, it’s still another bit of personal information that you may not want to divulge.

Change the password on your router: Even if you have a difficult password set on your router, it may be susceptible to security threats if you haven’t changed the default username and password. A simple Google search turns up hundreds of such default username and password combinations, which will quickly allow hackers to gain access to your network and, possibly, your computer.

Use antivirus software: One of the most comprehensive ways to prevent identity theft on your PC is to invest in a good antivirus program. If you get the right program, it could come with browser security features, a firewall, and many other things that will greatly reduce your risk of identity theft. While it’s usually a good idea to pay for antivirus software, it is possible to get one for free as well.

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