This resolution is life-or-death for your identity

Thursday, January 2, 2014

How are you doing with your New Year's resolutions? Don't give up, we're only two days into 2014, and New Years Day doesn't count.

We all joke about resolutions and the difficulty of keeping them, but plans like losing weight, stopping smoking and getting more exercise are life-or-death matters.

Add to that list a new one: keeping your identity safe. It could be a life-or-death matter for your financial health.

It's especially important for young people who take social networking for granted and are just in the process of establishing a credit rating and sound financial foundation.

Potential dangers came to light this week when hackers posted a database with 4.6 million names and phone numbers of Snapchat users, and hacked into the social media accounts of Skype, the Internet calling service.

Snapchat is a service, popular among young people, which lets users send each other photos that quickly disappear once they are received

Hackers who posted the Snapchat information have remained anonymous; not so the Syrian Electronic Army, which claimed responsibility for hacking Skype's official blog and social network accounts, posting contact information for Steve Ballmer, Microsoft Corp.'s retiring chief executive as well as the message "You can thank Microsoft for monitoring your accounts/emails using the details. #SEA."

Last year, it was revealed that Skype, owned by Microsoft, was part of the NSA's program to monitor communications through some of the biggest U.S. Internet companies.

You might consider paying for an identity theft service to monitor your credit rating and alert you to any attempts to open accounts in your name, raid your bank accounts or make charges to credit cards in your name.

In addition, experts offer the following advice for protecting your identity:

* Never disclose personal information on social networks or in pictures.; cyber criminals could use it to steal your identity.

* Don't click on any links you don't understand or accept invitations from people you don't know.

* Use privacy settings to hide your profile from search engines or "tagging" you in photos and videos.

* Don't send usernames or passwords via email; legitimate companies don't ask for them, and email is often not secure.

* Keep your antivirus and firewall software up to date.

On smartphones and tablets:

* Make sure you understand apps before downloading or signing up for them.

* Password-protect all devices to prevent them from accessing your social networks and financial information if lost.

* Contact your provider to "brick" a stolen device to prevent them from being reactivated after being sold on the black market.

Contact law enforcement authorities if you suspect your are a victim of identity theft, and report the theft to the Federal Trade Commission, visiting http://www.ftc.gof/idtheft, or call 1-877-ID-THEFT (438-4338) or TTY, 1-866-653-4261.

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