10 Ways to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

10 Ways to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

Perhaps the most valuable piece of currency on the Internet today is personal information.  Just as in real life, it needs to be guarded and protected from falling into the wrong hands. Scammers can use nefariously-obtained personal info to open credit card accounts, purchase expensive items and more. And although it’s usually a briefly gratifying experience for the criminal, it can lead to years and years of grief and confusion for the victim. Here are 10 ways to protect yourself from identity theft and keep your online privacy safe:

Identity Theft and Online Safety Tips

 –          Services like Lifelock, Identity Guard or Trusted ID other protection services may be worth the investment for your family if this is something you are particularly worried about.  For as little as $10 a month, these services will keep an eye out for your personal information and in some cases even monitor your credit reports for you.

–          At least once a year, it’s good to check up on your credit reports for you and all members of your family.  This can be done by visiting www.annualcreditreport.com.  According to the Federal Trade Commission, this is the only site authorized to provide you with the free credit report you’re entitled to by law.  If you find something wrong, you’ll not only want to contact the credit companies directly, but also the proper authorities.  All this information can found at www.ftc.gov.

–          The FBI also recently warned against a surprising danger of posting images online: the use of geolocation tags embedded in the image that can be accessed and show exactly where on earth the picture was taken.  This could be dangerous because you could be unwittingly letting others know where you live and work via these photos you are posting online.  We recommend disabling all “Location Services” on your family’s smartphones, which can easily be done on the Settings menu of most devices.

–          Although this may seem obvious, do what you can to protect your social security number.  Don’t be afraid to ask if it’s really necessary on any form that’s asking for it.  And if it is, make sure you’re comfortable knowing that the place you’re turning it over to, be it a school or a doctor’s office, will adequately protect it.  The last four digits of the number, when combined with the birthdate and place of birth, can be used to generate the complete nine-digit social security number.

–          Practice safe computing habits and password guarding, just as you guard your ATM code when using an ATM machine.  If you’re using a computer on a public network, refrain if possible from checking sites that require login information, and especially avoid doing activities such as online banking.

–          If you or someone in your family starts getting junk mail or credit card applications out of nowhere, that may be a sign that someone is using their identity.  This is an especially important warning flag if it’s a young kid who starts to receive this information.

–          Think twice before sharing your child’s name online or in public.  Whether it’s on your Facebook and Twitter page or on stickers you place on your car, it’s possible that the wrong person can see this information and use this information to steal their identity.

–          It’s important to distinguish that you’re only checking to see if a report exists when you contact the credit companies to see if you have one for your children.  Unless they’ve been a victim of identity theft, they shouldn’t have one, and ordering one could cause the credit bureaus to open on in their name, which is unnecessary.

–          Credit service Equifax recently launched a family plan that keeps tabs on the identities of two adults and up to four children, but it comes with a potentially steep price tag: $29.95 a month.  For that price parents can get e-mail or text message whenever someone tries to use any of the family’s IDs.

–          The first step if you think you are a victim of identity theft is to place a fraud alert with one of the credit companies.  Once you contact them, verify that they will contact the other two credit bureaus about the fraud alert as well.  You can contact any of the three:

Equifax

18005256285

Experian

18883973742

TransUnion

18006807289

In addition to taking steps to close any fraudulent accounts you find about, you’ll also need to file an Identity Theft Report and a Police Report to begin the process of straightening the identity theft out.  For starters, you can download and fill out the FTC Affidavit at www.ftc.gov/complaint.   Once you’ve done that, you can then take that form to your local police department and use it to fill out a police report.

After that, you can call the credit companies and request an extended fraud alert, which will stay in effect for seven years. 

For more tips like this, make sure to check out this helpful guide from the FTC which contains checklists and step-by-step instructions for what to do if you’ve been a victim of identity theft: http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/idtheft/idt04.pdf

The FTC also offers a comprehensive site discussing many aspects of identity theft, including tips for how to avoid identity theft http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft/

 

Best Applications: Top 5 Kindle Fire Apps

Best Applications: Top 5 Kindle Fire Apps

The Kindle Fire combines tablet computer functionality with Amazon.com’s e-book reader, the Kindle. The Kindle Fire is a handsome and handy piece of tech, and a great alternative for anyone feels that the iPad is a bit out of their price range. Unlike the iPad, however, the Fire runs on Android, not iOS, so some users might have a little difficulty rooting out the best Kindle Fire applications. 

What about you? If you own a Kindle Fire but feel like you’re not getting much use out of it, make sure you study up on what the tablet is capable of. There are hundreds of useful programs for you to pick and choose over, and they can help you organize your day, work on some documents, or just wind down after a hard day’s work. 

Here are five of the best apps available for the Kindle Fire: 

Quick Office Pro HD – Need to get some work done on the go? QuickOfficeProHD is a must-have for your Kindle Fire. This app lets you view and edit Microsoft Word documents, PowerPoint presentations, and Excel spreadsheets. It also lets you open and view PDF files without the need to download a separate application. Quick Office Pro HD can also connect you to popular remote office services, including Google Docs, Dropbox, Evernote, and more. 

Drawing Pad – Drawing Pad is a must-have for parents who want to encourage their kids’ creativity—and let’s be honest, adults will probably love it, too. It’s a finger-powered drawing program that features a huge assortment of drawing “materials,” including pencil crayons, markers, and paint. You can also mess around with stamps, stickers, and construction paper backgrounds. 

Where’s My Water? – All work and no play, right? The Kindle Fire doesn’t boast the same massive game selection as an iPad, but you can still play some tablet gaming’s best offerings. Where’s My Water? is a physics-based puzzle game that stars an adorable alligator named Swampy. Your mission is to re-direct streams of water into Swampy’s bath. It’s harder than it sounds, given that the game takes place in the sewers of New York, so all kinds of unpleasant stuff can end up in the tub instead. It’s perfect for gamers of any age. You’ll be hooked. 

Netflix – The Internet’s premier movie- and- television-streaming service is available on the Kindle Fire. The Kindle Fire’s version of the application loads quickly, is easy to use, and offers welcome options like easy access to subtitles. 

Audible for Android – If you own any kind of Android device, Audible for Android should be your go-to app for audio books. You can pick your favorites from a huge library of classics, or try something new. Audible for Android also has a Sleep Mode, so you can drift off without having to worry about your Kindle Fire’s battery life. 

For more great Kindle Fire app picks, check out: 

The Best Apps for Your Kindle Fire at Hubpages

Top 14 Kindle Fire Apps at PCWorld

Best Kindle Fire Apps at DigitalTrends

5 eReaders Every Book Lover Should Own

5 eReaders Every Book Lover Should Own

Although the line between full-fledged tablet PC and eReader is becoming more and more blurry, vacationers, business travelers and students alike continue to flock to handheld devices which primarily focus on providing vast libraries of books at the touch of a fingertip, but provide just enough individual features to justify the purchase.  Here are the 5 best eReaders and eBook-playing gadgets for anyone on the go. Needless to say, all make great personal purchases or gift-giving options.

Amazon Kindle Fire  

With a full-color display and Amazon’s dedicated app store offering millions of entertainment options like TV shows, music and more, the Amazon Kindle Fire is sort of a souped-up eReader or stripped-down tablet, depending on how you want to look at it.  The 7” touchscreen is not only bigger than other eReaders, but also in full-color.  The Kindle Fire connects easily to Wi-Fi networks to provide for web browsing via Amazon’s Silk browser, and also offers enhanced features for Amazon Prime members, offering free books and streaming capabilities from select items from Amazon’s vast catalog. Priced at just under $200, the Kindle Fire quickly became the second-most popular tablet device (after iPad) when it debuted in 2011. 

Sony Reader

Sony’s dedicated eReader, the Sony Reader, is a lightweight and elegant device, designed to maximize battery life while providing crystal clear and paper-like displays.  Priced at $129, it’s less expensive than the Kindle Fire, and is a great choice for travelers who need to unplug for a bit – a single battery-charge with the wireless turned off can last up to five weeks.  The Sony Reader also boasts unprecedented and simple access to borrowing eBooks from public libraries, it’s as simple as pushing the public library icon.

Nook with GlowLight

Barnes & Noble’s Nook with GlowLight focuses on getting the light just right, no matter what the light situation.  The soft, glowing light is optimized for low-light situations and designed so that it’s just bright enough for the reader to see, but not so bright as to distract others.  Switching brightness is as simple as adjusting an onscreen slider and fonts can easily be made bigger and smaller, depending on your preference. The Nook also comes with built-in social features that allow you to easily connect with other Nook-using friends over Facebook to compare and recommend books you’ve read.  The Nook retails for $139 and boasts a comfortable exterior and a battery that can last up to a month on a single charge.

Kobo eReader Touch

The Kobo eReader Touch is designed to provide an eReader that is simple and comfortable to use.  Taking a cue from Apple’s iPad, the eReader Touch has one physical “home” button and uses the touchscreen for all other user input.  You can spot a Kobo eReader Touch by its distinctive soft-quilted back, which makes it comfortable to hold with one hand or set in your lap.  For non-English speakers, the Kobo is a great choice as the first eReader device to be available in multiple languages.  It’s a great value too, with a $99.99 price tag that makes it the most cost-effective choice on the market.  And if that’s not inexpensive enough, you can buy a Kobo eReader Touch for $79.99 that pushes ads or offers to you in exchange for the lower price.

Apple iPad

Although the iPad is much more than just an eReader, its overwhelming popularity, sleek design and high-resolution Retina display make it great for taking books on the go.  Sure, it’s got a high-resolution camera, hundreds of thousands of apps, and even the ability to take HD-quality videos, but as an eReader you can download apps from all the other competitive eReaders and enjoy access to their library books straight from you iPad.  If cost is no object and you have an iPad anyway, you’ll probably want to consider using it to access the eReader libraries of all the other products we mentioned, whether by an official app or through other apps that let you access your libraries for devices like the Sony Reader via the iPad.