Often used to store financial records, tax returns, photos and other personal information, your computer is a treasure trove for an identity thief. You should update your virus software regularly and not open unfamiliar e-mail attachments, since viruses can create backdoors for hackers to steal information from your PC.
Also, make sure your browser, such as Internet Explorer or Firefox, is updated with the latest encryption software so that information you send over the Internet is secure.
When giving an account number online, the URL on the address bar at the top of your screen should read “https” or shttp,” not “http,” and an icon at the bottom of your screen may change from a broken key to complete one, or an open lock to one that is closed. This means the information is being transmitted securely.
You should next make sure the company is safeguarding the info by storing it in a secure database, information which should be available on their Web site.
Before doing business with an unfamiliar company, check with your local consumer protection agency and the Better Business Bureau to see if they have been reported. Some scammers set up fake Web sites designed to steal your personal information. If an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Passwords you use to access online accounts, including e-mail, should be treated with as much security as the one for your ATM. You should always password protect your laptop, and might decide against using it to store financial information.
Finally, if you are getting rid of a computer, be aware that information you think has been deleted can still be recoverable, and you need to use a “wipe” program to make sure it is really clean.