Preventing Online Identity Theft

Guest blog by Angela Hart
Author of Through Angela's Eye 

In what could only be described as a life altering experience, when I discovered that my identity had been stolen and bank account closed, I set out on my own investigation to find out who had done this. When the police told me that homicides took precedence over the fact that hackers had threatened my life, then I decided to become my own advocate and wage war against those terrorizing me through my computer.

The two and a half year investigation, which started in July 2003 and ran through December 2005, codenamed “Operation Firewall” resulted in the arrest of 48 people; 28 of which were from the United States and 20 from overseas. In a book entitled Through Angela’s Eye the Inside Story of Operation Firewall, I chronicle, my ordeal. I reveal the methods I used to expose the identity of the first hacker listing all of the steps I took to get his picture, name, address and phone number. The book also outlines how and why they were doing this. Exposing this information led to all of their arrests. Over 4,000 cases and 64,000 arrests resulted. New laws were also put on the books to prosecute those perpetuating the crimes. My efforts have made it safer for people to make purchases over the internet.

Let’s face it, many shoppers prefer the convenience and ease of ordering goods online from the comforts of their own home and having them delivered right to their doorstep without having to set foot outside. However, such conveniences open new doors for identity thieves. 
In today’s day and age, you can never take too many precautions to prevent and protect yourself from identity theft. By following a few simple rules of thought, you can enjoy this convenience without it costing you your identity.

Credit card companies have many new laws and regulations that were implemented to protect the consumer with online purchases.

1. Always use a credit card and never a debit card. A hacker can drain your bank account and close it which you are not able to reopen. A credit card charge can always be disputed. Most credit card companies will only make you responsible for the first $50.00 in fraudulent purchases. Check with your credit card companies. 

2. Check your credit cards to see if you have identity theft protection on them. 

3. Check with them also to see if they offer online protection. Some companies will assign you a bogus credit card number that you can use for purchases that is only good for one day. 

4. Shop at reputable online merchants. This includes Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Home Depot, or any other trusted household names. If you are shopping online at small companies that may not be as popular, do some research. Sometimes typing in the name of the store and the word complaints or rip off will get you additional information. You can check the Sellers online reputation through such sites as the BBB (Better Business Bureau) or the Attorney General. 

5. Only shop at secure web sites. If it says http:, it is not secure. If it says https:, the S means that it is a secure site. 

6. Make sure the page where you enter your credit card details and other personal information is also secure. When the data is transmitted, it is encrypted when it is sent to the credit card company. The credit card company is the only one who will see your full credit card number, expiration date, name, address, phone, transaction number, and items you purchased. When the receipt is sent to your email, you will only be able to see the date, last four of the credit card number, transaction number, total, and what you purchased. This is the same information that the merchant will also see. Therefore, if you
need to add to your order, you will need to input the data again. If you need a refund, they only need the date, transaction number, amount, and last four digits of the credit card number to process it. 

7. Make sure the website requests a CVV or CID number. The Card Verification Value code is an extra layer of security provided by credit card companies for those who shop online to prevent identity theft. It is usually three or four digits that is located on the back of the card. It acts as a pin number. 

8. Another option, is to have your credit card issuer place an additional password that users have to enter before an online transaction is processed MasterCard calls it Secure Code, while Visa calls it Verified. This service is provided free of charge by the respective issuers. 

9. Never e-mail a credit card number to a company. The e-mail does not encrypt the number. Phishing emails are rampant. They are designed to trick you into providing personal

information including credit card details. Sometimes they will tell you what the last four digits of you card is before asking to verify the full number. If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is. Follow your gut. 

10. If you feel unsure about making a purchase online, call the company. Most merchants can safely place the order over the telephone. 
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