In our last post, we covered some lines of offense for preventing identity theft, mostly by locking down your electronic goods with strong and protective password “padlocks.” But even if you make it difficult for criminals to walk right into your life, they also try to worm their way in. For this, you need a strong defense. The biggest play here is to be careful where you click.

Does something smell phishy?

All those bogus e-mails we’re all awash in? That’s called phishing. The goal is to tempt you to fill out forms, click on hyperlinks, open attachments, or otherwise elicit a response from you. If you fall for the bait, you expose yourself to having your personal information and/or electronic device compromised. If an unsolicited e-mail smells phishy, don’t click, open or respond. Tag it as junk and delete it without further ado.

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Have you perfected your hover craft?

Some phishing e-mails are clearly suspect, but others may imitate real entities like your bank … logo and all. How can you tell? Inspect the “From” address – not just the one that displays, but the actual e-mail address behind it. It may be similar, but a few characters off from legitimate, such as info@TDCanadaaTrust.com. Also hover your mouse over any hyperlinks (without clicking on them), or do the equivalent on your touchscreen. If the underlying link looks bizarre, something’s phishy! Again, when in doubt … delete. Or follow up on our next tip …

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Is this the party to whom I’m speaking?

Most legitimate businesses like financial institutions no longer send “out of the blue” e-mails requiring you to take action. If you think it might be for real, though, you still shouldn’t open any attachments or click on any links. Instead close the e-mail, open your web browser, go to the business’s direct site and find what you’re looking for there. Better yet just call the entity and ask. Reputable firms are delighted to help prevent identity theft.

*Identity theft and fraud affects millions of people each year. Keep yours secure by following our preventative checklist here.

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Got your antivirus immunization?

If you do fall for a phishing misadventure – clicking on a bad link or opening a bogus attachment – the action may well download an unwanted and often undetected malware (“malicious software”) to your device. Malware can cause all kinds of trouble, from annoying pranks to dangerous identity theft to total destruction. It may attack immediately, or it might hide for weeks or months before doing its dirty work. To ward off malware, take advantage of your e-mail provider’s firewalls. Also install robust anti-malware/anti-virus software on all of your devices, and KEEP IT CURRENT.

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Are you being web-wary as well?

E-mails aren’t the only malware delivery devices around. Website links can be infected with malware as well. The more “off the beaten track” a website may be, the more careful you should be if you drop by for a visit. Popular search engines such as Google or Bing tend to rate sites, as do various anti-virus browser plug-ins. When conducting searches on the World Wide Web, pay attention to global, cautionary signs that the site may not be legitimate.

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Is your Wi-Fi exposed?

Where are you conducting your e-mail and web browsing? If you’re at home or in the office, chances are your Wi-Fi Internet connection is relatively secure. But if you’re using public Wi-Fi (such as at the airport or in a coffee shop), be extra careful where you go and what you do on these essentially insecure access points. Avoid using public Wi-Fi to conduct any transactions that you wouldn’t want the public to see. It’s just not worth it.

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How’s your phone n’etiquette?

Last but not least, there’s that phone of yours – the part of your phone that actually is a telephone as well as your text messages. Scammers have been introducing a variation on the theme of phishing here as well. You’re best off ignoring text messages or calls from unfamiliar numbers … especially if it’s a 1-900 number (which can incur unexpected charges on your bill). “Don’t talk to strangers” remains a valid precaution in our increasingly mobile world.

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