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Internet Safety


Computer Identity Theft - Modern Day Confidence Tricksters

The widespread use of personal computers and the internet is a godsend for many identity thieves. The days of rummaging through trash cans looking for personal details like bank account details or a social security number has gone. For today's thieves the tools of trade are the computer and countless bogus email ids. And their pool of potential victims has spread from the local area to the whole world. So it is no wonder that computer identity theft is on the rise and one of the fastest growing crimes to date.

Although it might appear like a high tech crime, the most common form of computer identity theft is in fact one of the oldest crimes going. It is a simple confidence trick that can be blatantly obvious or elaborately cunning depending on your experience of these things.

So most common forms of computer identity theft appeal to a persons fear or greed. These are very powerful motivators of action in people. Indeed, the fear of losing something is even more powerful than the prospect of gaining something, so quite often the confidence trickster will ply this form of deception.

A common fear that many people that use computers have is that they will be a target of computer identity theft. They use computers a bit but know that there are some smart people out in the world who can do all sorts of things with computers. One day they receive an email from their bank saying that their bank account was hacked into last night. Please enter their details and then change the password so this can't happen again.

It comes as quite a shock. Has money been taken out of my account ? What did the hacker do? The email goes on to say that you should login to your account and immediately change the password by filling in the form at the bottom of the mail.

The email looks genuine. The logo at the head of the mail is the bank's logo. The wording of the email has that official sound to it. Some people may fall for this but if you look slightly closer at the mail you will see some things that don't seem to add up. The sending email address has a yahoo suffix to it. The name of the person and title of the person signing the email don't quite sound right. You are wise to be wary.

Phishing scams work by presenting an official looking email or directing the intended victim to an authentic looking website. This is the process of building trust or confidence. With trust established the thief will ask for important details from the potential victim. This may be anything from bank account details to a social security number. They can then wreak havoc on their finances or apply for things like credit cards using their identity. A Service like LifeLock can protect you against such attempts.

This is the reason why most companies never ask for your details via email. If a company website does ask for information you will notice (or rather, expect) that the site is secure. Most secure websites will tell you about this before you send any information across the internet. A secure website will have an image of a lock on the screen and the screen name will usually begin with 'https'.




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