.

Take A Byte Out Of Crime

Whatever else you may want your computer to do, you don't want it to inadvertently reveal your personal information to others. Take steps to help assure that this won't happen. Install a firewall to prevent hackers from obtaining information from your hard drive or hijacking your computer to use it for committing other crimes. This is especially important if you use a high-speed connection that leaves you continuously connected to the Internet. Moreover, install virus protection software and update it on a regular basis. Try to avoid storing personal and financial information on a laptop; if it's stolen, the thief may obtain more than your computer. If you must store such information on your laptop, make things as difficult as possible for a thief by protecting these files with a strong password--one that's six to eight characters long, and that contains letters (upper and lower case), numbers, and symbols. "If a stranger calls, don't answer." Opening e-mails from people you don't know, especially if you download attached files or click on hyperlinks within the message, can expose you to viruses, infect your computer with "spyware" that captures information by recording your keystrokes, or lead you to "spoofs" (websites that replicate legitimate business sites) designed to trick you into revealing personal information that can be used to steal your identity. If you wish to visit a business's legitimate website, use your stored bookmark or type the URL address directly into the browser. If you provide personal or financial information about yourself over the Internet, do so only at secure websites; to determine if a site is secure, look for a URL that begins with "https" (instead of "http") or a lock icon on the browser's status bar. And when it comes time to upgrade to a new computer, remove all your personal information from the old one before you dispose of it. Using the "delete" function isn't sufficient to do the job; overwrite the hard drive by using a "wipe" utility program. The minimal cost of investing in this software may save you from being wiped out later by an identity thief. Be diligent As the grizzled duty sergeant used to say on a televised police drama, "Be careful out there." The identity you save may be your own.

One more tie in on identity theft and divorce – this can add to what I mentioned earlier:  Many types of public records regularly capture Social Security numbers, including divorce and bankruptcy filings, deeds, liens, mortgages and affidavits. When these records are scanned into public databases, the Social Security numbers become easily accessible to the public. Many states and counties nationwide have announced initiatives to use software programs for automatically redacting (blurring) Social Security numbers. When requested, officials must blur the number. Good suggestion is when filing any public record that requires a Social Security number, the number by typed rather than handwritten because mechanical redaction of the typed number is much less difficult to accomplish.  
By, John Brenkovich,Registered CFP,Registered ChFC,Registered AAMS

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