Identity Thieves may be Hiding Inside Your Computer...

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I've got a scary number for you: Security experts estimate that as many as ten million personal computers are infected with viruses designed to steal your personal information.

If that doesn't make your hair stand on end, then listen to this: Panda Security found that at least one percent of the 67 million people who utilized their free ActiveScan to test their computers last year were infected with malicious Trojan software programs. That's 670,000 computers. They estimate that if 1 percent of the computers in homes across the world actually downloaded malware without knowledge of it, it's safe to estimate then that over ten million computers worldwide could potentially be infected with software capable of stealing its contents--and along with that, personal identities.

The scary numbers just keep coming. According to Panda, their detection rate rose to over 800 percent between the middle of 2008 and the end of the year. Victims are usually infected after being duped into downloading virus programs through fake websites or pop-ups.

Malicious programs such as key logger spyware can go undetected for quite a period of time, whether or not the latest antivirus updates are installed. And once these destructive programs are downloaded onto a computer, every keystroke made--including credit card numbers entered, Social Security numbers typed, banking information and passwords input--are then in the hands of the bad guys. Thieves have become technologically savvy. In fact, Panda reported that more than a third of the PCs they found to be infected had fully-functional and recently-updated anti-virus programs installed.

Here are some of the highlights from Panda's study on the evolution of online identity theft:

 * Over three million of the audited users in the U.S. and more than 10 million users worldwide were infected with active identity theft-based malware in 2008

 * 1.07 percent of all PCs scanned in 2008 were infected with active malware (resident in memory during the scan) related to identity theft, such as banker Trojans

 * 35 percent of the infected PCs had up-to-date antivirus software installed
 * The number of PCs infected with identify theft malware increased by 800 percent from the first half of 2008 to the second half

A few tips to help protect your computer and your identity;

    * 1. If you are using a shared computer, always delete any personal information and passwords you may have entered.

    * 2. Never click on pop-ups or embedded links contained in email from an unknown source, even if it says, "You have been sent a postcard from your friend!" These are most likely fronts for "phishing" scams. DON'T CLICK.

    * 3. Use care when picking passwords. Don't use passwords containing public information that a trained identity thief can easily crack. Hint: your birth date, the name of your pet, and your mother's maiden name are not as secret as you think.

The Federal Trade Commission estimates that over nine million consumers have had their identities stolen in the United States alone. Having safeguards in place, before you learn your information has been stolen or put at risk by any number of reported data breaches, is vital -and key to reducing the impact of fraud.

When thinking of the common scenario that usually plays out when a theft of data occurs; personal data is hacked, stolen and then sold to multiple thieves in one of the 10,000+ underground chat rooms frequented by thieves, who then often use it to commit other crimes, empty bank accounts, apply for credit, obtain housing, cell phones, cars or employment, all by pretending to be you. Who wants to clean up that mess alone? Not me -been there, done that! And it's not any fun.

Whether it be ordering credit reports, placing fraud alerts, freezing your credit, or hiring services like LifeLock as I did, prior to learning your data has been stolen, you will save you immeasurable time, money and boatloads of frustrations down the road should the worst occur.

If your wallet was lost or stolen today, would you know who to call? If not, today's a good day to figure out a plan of action.  One thing is for sure, if you don't get a hold of your identity -someone else will!

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Investing in an ID theft package for your whole family (yes even the kids) is one part of the puzzle.

Becoming a savvy computer user is also essential in this day and age. That means updated anti-virus software.

Keep your operating system and browsers Up-To-Date. Why? because most of the fixes are security related!

Beware of phishing in all forms, fake email - fake websites. How can you tell when you are visiting a secure Website-- Extended Validation SSL Certificates are easy to recognize and verify. Sites with EV SSL display a green address bar when used with the latest versions of most major Web browsers. The green address bar bears the name of the Website's organization that owns the certificate, as well as the authority that issued it.

None of the three steps mentioned above are effective against todays trojans since most of them have keylogging capabilities. That means whatever you have tyoed once, doesnt matter even if you didnt login after typing password or you press backspace after typing password and it doesnt help if u delete browsing history..
whats typed once has been logged.
So it is immaterial whether its ur birthdate,second name or anything else. A 30 character password with special characters doesnt do any good in this scenario.
My intention is not make anyone paranoid, but this does happen..
But here are the things you can do..
1) You can move on to a safer operating system like linux, unix etc..
but all of us cant suddenly change to a new OS
So, nake your system dual boot
While using windows,
2) Put a very good anti-virus software (I recommend Kaspersky..) and a firewall (Again Kaspersky or Zone Alarm will do..) but most important thing is it should be up to date. So update it more frequently
I dont know about latest AV softwares but do
search about it..

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