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Identity Theft In Cyberspace - Protect Yourself!

Know who you’re dealing with.
If the online seller or charity is unfamiliar, check with your state or local consumer protection agency and the Better Business Bureau. Some websites have feedback forums, which can provide useful information about other people’s experiences with particular sellers. Get the physical address and phone number in case there is a problem later.

Think twice before entering contests operated by unfamiliar companies.
Fraudulent marketers sometimes use contest entry forms to gather personal information for identity theft.

Be cautious about unsolicited e-mails. They are often fraudulent.
If you are familiar with the company or charity that sent you the e-mail and you don’t want to receive further messages, send a reply asking to be removed from the e-mail list. However, responding to unknown senders may simply verify that yours is a working e-mail address and result in even more unwanted messages from strangers. The best approach may simply be to delete the e-mail.

Beware of imposters.
Someone might send you an e-mail pretending to be connected with a business or charity, or create a website that looks just like that of a well-known company or charitable organization. If you’re not sure that you’re dealing with the real thing, find another way to contact the legitimate business or charity and ask.

Guard your personal information.
Don’t provide your credit card or account number unless you are actually paying for something. Your social security number should not be necessary unless you are applying for credit. Be especially suspicious if someone claiming to be from a company with whom you have an account asks for information that the business already has.

Beware of "dangerous downloads."
In downloading programs to see pictures, hear music, play games, etc., you could download a virus that wipes out your computer files or connects your modem to a foreign telephone number, resulting in expensive phone charges. Secret programs may exist in files you download—especially .exe files. Download programs only from websites you know and trust. Read all user agreements carefully. These files could even collect information about you without your knowledge. Install a virus protection program before you go online.

Pay the safest way.
Credit cards are the safest way to pay for online purchases; you can dispute the charges if you never get the goods or services or if the offer was misrepresented. Federal law limits your liability to $50 if someone makes unauthorized charges to your account, and most credit card issuers will remove them completely if you report the problem promptly.

Make sure it's secure.
If you buy something on the Internet and need to give your credit card number, verify the online security or encryption before you do business.

Filter out the bad stuff.
Inexpensive "filtering" software programs help make sure your family members are protected from websites that may not be appropriate.

For more on online fraud and how to protect yourself, call the FTC
toll-free at 1-877-382-4357 or visit them on the web at www.ftc.gov.

Source: National Fraud Information Center, www.nclnet.org