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How to Protect Yourself from Online Identity Theft

Let's cut to the chase-there have been reports and mediocre movies about identity thieves for at least the last decade. Hundreds of thousands have fallen victim to their lazy, dorky version of robbery. So by this point you're either familiar with them, or you're living in a cardboard box, wondering what happened to your credit cards.

Now a lot of your data is gotten through hacking and other meaningless Hollywood jargon, but sometimes that data is just floating out there for the taking. 411Locate is one of many sites that can provide useful public records in a quick and effortless package. This is great if you want to look up property history for potential Hauntings, find that old and rightfully-estranged brother, or learn the address of that telemarketer who won't stop calling so you can put a stop to it. The downside is that Ocean's 11 rejects can abuse that information to begin stealing your identity.

This info is public, so even without 411Locate, this information would exist in government databases. Because of this, it's best to educate yourself on how to protect your data. Well, you could also do nothing, but then you'd be the guy in a cardboard condo, so check out these tips:

Look for the "S" in HTTPS

Just like the one on Superman's chest, the "S" in HTTPS at the beginning of web addresses should be a sign of safety and comfort, because it means the site is secure and info you enter doesn't linger anywhere but with those you authorize. There's usually a little padlock in the address bar too. It's common in places that require security, like banking, government and porn sites.

You are a Little Phish in a Big Pond

For some reason, "phish" is the term to reach out for sucker's personal info and reel it in. The "fishing" analogy makes sense, but the misspelling doesn't. Regardless, the most common tactic is to send an email from a seemingly credible address with graphics that look like the real branding. They'll say something like "Information is missing from your account!" and ask you to fill in the gaps. Don't. Most real sites will never do this, only reel ones. Hope you're not confused.

Secure Your Sociability

Something that is never provided by background check sites is your social security number-never enter it anywhere that isn't a professional, secured site, like discussed in the last two tips. Note that following this advice doesn't protect you from carrying your social security card around and losing it like an idiot.

Banks Can Actually Help, Sometimes

It is incredibly hard to believe, but most banks want to protect you from outside theft-that way they can continue to use your money to fund whatever schemes they're up to. So work with your bank, get zero-liability protection on all your cards and accounts from fraud and theft. Some of these guys will even do it for free-just what are they up to?

Tear Your Life to Shreds

Dumpster diving isn't just the habit of hipsters and the homeless-identity thieves will do it too, to assemble enough information to get access to your accounts. So pull a Wall Street and shred every bit of financial information that heads for the trash can (or hopefully the recycle bin, you monster).

Shipped Security

If you're one of the remaining people who uses snail mail for any sort of financial business, either use the mailbox close to drop off and pick up times, or use a secured post office. Some identity thieves will do literal "fishing" of your documents out of the mailbox using little hooks and other implements. Or just do it online and secure like we're in the 21st century or something.

Avoid Viruses like the Plague

Computer viruses often carry little programs to siphon financial information. This isn't a complicated tip-scan for viruses every week and don't download illegal stuff. You'll be alright.

Credit Checks

Do a credit check annually to make sure purchases and other things you didn't do aren't going on. Be sure to only do this once a year, because checking more often can hurt your credit score-it's a real racket, right?

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