February 2, 2011

Tech Matters – Identity Theft

Information from Computer Revolutions
Moline, IL

Identity Theft Awareness

Identity thieves use many different methods to carry out their crimes. One of their most effective tools just happens to be a computer. The introduction and evolution of the internet has made it that much easier for identity theft to be committed by someone sitting behind a computer screen. Several online predators seek out the innocent on fraudulent web sites or through spam email. They sometimes claim to be IRS agents or members of a banking institution, trying to persuade recipients out of residential addresses, Social Security numbers and bank account information. Those individuals who choose to meet these requests are swindled instantly as the scammer immediately assumes their identity by charging up credit cards and possibly cleaning out their bank accounts

You would be surprised to learn what may still be on your computer even after you think it has been removed. A computer-savvy thief may easily be able to retrieve email messages, your name, age, birth date and other sensitive information.

Eluding Computer Identity Theft

Here are a few things that can be done to prevent your personal information from being compromised.

• Always remove the hard drive on a computer you are selling or giving away.
• Keep it in a safe place or destroy it
• Inquire within a reliable computer supplier about how to safely overwrite the files
• Use a quality hard disk cleaning program.

There are also a few items you should delete individually. Although it may be somewhat of a task, recovering from identity theft is even more of a challenge. Here are the files that must be deleted before selling or giving your computer away:

• All email contacts
• All email messages
• All word documents
• All files in the recycle bin or trash folder of the operating system
• All temporary internet files
• Your internet search history
• The cache of your web browser
• Any non-transferable software that may be installed on the hard drive

You should also make sure that trusted users of your computer are practicing identity theft prevention as well. Children should protect themselves from identity theft by never using their real name in an email account and limiting personal details on social networking sites. Because children are often prime targets of internet predators, it is very important to protect the contents of your computer to prevent identity theft and ensure their safety.

Tech Matters is written each month by Travis Larson and Dave Montag of Computer Revolutions in Moline. They can be reached at 309.797.9114 or by emailing info@computerrevolutions.com.