People spend a lot of time on the Internet. But this phenomenon can no longer be avoided because the online world has simply become an integral part of our lives. Shopping, paying bills, trading stocks, reading the news, listening to music, playing games, and even earning a living can now be made possible through the Internet, which is exactly why majority of households now have at least one computer. Unfortunately, the reality is that just as the online world has become part of our way of life, identity theft has also become a real threat that hounds and attacks computer users every single day.

But no, it isn’t really the end of the world. And most definitely, you don’t have to stop yourself from using your PC and going online. If you want to keep yourself and your loved ones protected from the dangers of identity theft, there are ways to make this possible. Below are the 5 most effective ways to keep you from falling into the hands of hackers and fraudsters.

Tip #1: Buy only from trusted websites.

As mentioned, shopping can already be done online and all you need to get started is your computer and an Internet connection. But before you choose an auction site or an online shop where you will make purchases from, you should find out just how secure this website is. A lot of issues with identity theft occur when people provide their credit or debit card information on a website that does not have reliable security features. You need to ensure that none of your personal details can be viewed by hackers lurking on the Net. It is advisable to pay using trusted payment processors like PayPal to be protected.

Tip #2: Keep your network secure.

Seasoned hackers can easily access to your online activities if you use an unsecured wireless network. Be very careful about this; always see to it that your wireless router is locked and your information is encrypted. You can do this by simply configuring the documentation of your wireless router. A password authentication should also be enabled so that only you and other authorized users will be able to gain access to your network. In line with this, you should also be careful when using public computers. Make sure that you don’t provide any personal data on any public computer, such as your username and password.

Tip #3: Check your credit card billing statements.

Every time you receive your billing statements, take a few minutes to review the charges. You might be surprised to see a charge or two that you did not authorize. If you see unfamiliar transactions on your billing statement, make sure to call your bank or credit card company right away. Not only does this reverse your charges but this will also alert them to block transactions. The bank may probably require you to close the account and open a new one for your own protection.

Tip #4: Don’t click on unfamiliar website links.

You’ve probably seen more than a few spam messages in your inbox, right? Don’t open them! Send them straight to Trash and delete them forever. Spam messages usually contain suspicious links that you should never click. Doing so could trick you into opening a site that’s considered a “hot spot” for hackers and fraudsters, making you susceptible to identity theft.

Tip #5: Keep security software programs up-to-date.

Lastly, always keep your security software programs updated. Turn on your firewall; install an antivirus program; and equip your computer with an anti-spyware technology. Make sure that all these software programs are updated constantly, including your Operating System. Doing so can help keep hackers and malicious programs at bay.

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