Many people associate identity theft with having a wallet or purse stolen. But did you know that a compromised computer is fast becoming the most likely way that your identity can be stolen? And that spyware is often at the root of this malicious activity?
Here’s how they do it:
Spyware travels over the Internet and infects your computer.
You can encounter spyware and other forms of malware in many ways, including:
- Downloading files or software
- Opening email attachments or clicking on pop-ups
- Visiting devious Web sites
Operating silently, spyware collects your information.
Without your knowledge, spyware runs in the background while it records your Internet browsing habits and keystrokes, monitors the programs you use and collects your personal information, which can lead to credit card fraud and online identity theft.
Spyware uses your Internet connection to transmit your information to identity thieves.
While your computer is connected to the Internet, spyware quietly transmits your personal information, which can include:
- Credit card numbers
- Bank account numbers
- Social Security numbers
- Usernames and passwords
- Address books, including email addresses
Spyware villains use your information for illicit or illegal activities.
The villain who placed spyware on your computer receives your information and can now:
- Steal money and open credit card and bank accounts in your name
- Sell it to other parties who will use it for illicit or illegal purposes
- Pummel your PC with pop-ups, spam and unwanted messages as well as direct you to Web sites you never intended to visit
Avoiding identity theft.
Spyware used for online identity theft can be the most harmful and difficult to remove of any type of spyware. Here are a few things that can help you achieve a level of online identity theft protection:
- Continually check the accuracy of personal accounts and deal with any discrepancies immediately
- Avoid questionable Web sites
- Practice safe email protocol:
- Don't open messages from unknown senders
- Immediately delete messages you suspect to be spam
- Only download software from sites you trust. Carefully evaluate free software and file-sharing applications before downloading them.
- Get the latest Windows® patches
- Use public computers with extreme caution
Another important step in avoiding online identity theft is making sure that you have the best security software products installed on your PC:
- Use antivirus protection and a firewall
The best identity theft protection begins by avoiding spyware infection in the first place. Products like Webroot® AntiVirus® guard against spyware entering your computer and prevent it from slowing your PC through damage to your files and programs. A good antispyware program searches every place on your PC where spyware can hide and removes every trace to boost your PC performance. While free antispyware downloads are available, they just can’t keep up with the continuous onslaught of new spyware strains. Previously undetected forms of spyware can often do the most damage to your PC, so it’s critical to have up-to-the-minute, guaranteed online identity theft protection.