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Important... Keeping Your Personal Info Safe  

by Bill Wallmuller
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Technology today has made our world much smaller, and has given us amazing tools such as the Internet, high speed Personal Computers [ PC's ] and medical technology that we could only dream about no so very long ago.

With the good comes the bad. Many today have their privacy invaded by unscrupulous groups and individuals in our society intent on obtaining personal information by whatever means. These thieves have the tenacity to use the very technology that has been truly beneficial to everyone and use it against the unsuspecting public. The identity thieves trick the unsuspecting public and gain this personal information via such methods as hacking personal files on the Internet and using rouses like spam and other tricky techniques such as phishing to steal your identity.

Understanding how the unscrupulous obtain this private information help us to look at ways to make it harder for these low-lives to play their game.

Thieves can use even the most mundane of personal details to help them "verify" that they are someone they aren't. One of the most common ways of obtaining personal details is "trash bin raiding". This tactic is surprisingly common in affluent areas and is spreading out of towns to the countryside; with 75% of local authorities now admitting it happens regularly in their jurisdiction.

An exercise carried out with the support of the English Nottingham City Council and Nottingham Shire Police analyzed the contents of hundreds of household bins to see what people were throwing away. It found that a whopping 86% of domestic rubbish contained information helpful to fraudsters.

Three quarters of the bins that were checked contained the full name and address of at least one person from the household, while 20% of trash bins contained a bank account number and other data that could be linked to the name and address of a person from the house.

So don't keep all of your bills, receipts and other personal documents in an obvious place and if you can lock it away, do so... If you don't have anywhere to lock it, try and keep it somewhere out of the way, or separate it out.

Consider investing in a good paper shredder! Shred any documents that you do not need any longer instead of just tossing the paperwork into the trash.

Identity thieves will also try to dupe you into giving personal information either in person, over the phone or by using fraudulent official sounding e-mails. And of course, today's personal computers can hold plenty of information useful to fraudsters. It is very important that we use proper firewalls, use reliable and up to date anti-virus software and programs that can identify and weed out spam, trojans or other mal-ware.

It is in your best interest to be wary. Be suspicious of anyone seeking too much personal information, and don't be afraid to challenge them by asking "why do you need those details?" - a legitimate enquirer won't mind you asking. Make sure you store all important documents and details, such as your birth certificate, national insurance number, receipts and bank statements, in a safe place.

As mentioned earlier, anything containing personal information that you intend to throw out should be destroyed before it is put in the trash bin. Using a household paper shredder is not taking things too far. If you think you have become the victim of an identity thief, report it to the police, local authority and relevant government departments or companies immediately.

We should also keep personal information stored on computers in "encrypted" folders. Encryption scrambles the contents of your chosen folder so it cannot be read by anyone else. You can "unscramble" the contents using a password. Many well-known software companies offer free downloads to help you with encryption, or encryption can be an option under your standard operating system.

Making sure that all our private information is kept from roaming eyes may not sound too hard to do. But there are many people who are aware of this problem, know how to protect their data, but either through neglect, laziness or just not taking the time to do what is suggested, are sitting ducks for the personal data thieves.

Please....don't let you or anyone in your family be that person. Thoughts and intensions are great but without action there is no accomplishment. Put these recommendations into effect today  

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