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The Stupidest Things You're Doing to Put Your Identity at Risk

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The editors at Top Criminal Justice Schools decided to research the topic of:

The Stupidest Things You're Doing to Put Your Identity at Risk

Think identity theft can't happen to you? The nearly 12 million Americans who are victims of the crime annually probably thought the same thing.

Take my debit card number, please

- Maybe they want to show off a cool credit card design or they're proud of the fact that they just qualified for that new American Express card. Either way, it's shockingly common to see pictures of actual debit or credit cards online.

That email really seemed legit

- OK, so nobody really falls for the Nigerian prince scam anymore, but with scammers becoming more and more sophisticated, it is growing tougher to distinguish the real from the fake. If you're unsure, ask the source to prove their legitimacy; otherwise, it's best to mark the message as spam and move on.

Free-for-all WiFi

- Though it can be tempting to check your account balance at the coffee shop, you could unwittingly expose your account number, username and password to hackers who troll unsecured public networks.

California, here we come!

- Posting on Facebook or Twitter that you're going to be out of town for an extended period may seem harmless, and it very well could be, but that all depends on your list of friends and followers. If there's even one nefarious person in the bunch, they would know when you're going to be gone, and if you're that into sharing, you've probably inadvertently provided other key details they could use to break into your home and clean it out while you relax on the beach.

Can't wait for my big tax check

- Well, if you're not watching your mailbox carefully, you may never see it. If the wrong person finds out you're expecting a payday in the mail, they can easily snatch it.

Psst, what's your password?

- If you're like most people, it's probably an easy one (you'd be shocked how many people use something like 123456), and you probably use it all over the place. Nearly half of users have the same password for a variety of multiple accounts.

Whose Facebook is that?

- If you're not the only one who uses your computer, log out of all accounts when you're done and don't save any passwords. Really sure you can trust that new girlfriend?

Eh, I'm sure everything's fine

- This is the ostrich approach; assuming your identity is safe because you have secure passwords and haven't seen cash vanish from your checking account. Better to know for sure. You can access your three credit reports one time each a year. Check them and report anything suspect (check how your name is spelled, check your address, check previous addresses and job information).

4 in 10

- People who shared their password with someone else


- Web users who don't employ any security


- Social media users with public profiles who share their birthdate

6 in 10

- Smartphone users who don't password-protect their home screens

1 in 4

- ID theft victims who know the source of the crime

Don't think you're safe behind your firewall

- Yes, you need good security on your computer. But don't think that allows you to behave recklessly online. Sound software doesn't make you invincible. You still have to use your brain a bit.

If it sounds too good to be true ...

- A hackneyed statement, to be sure, but if that offer in your email or on that website doesn't pass the smell test, assume it's a scam. And report it to your ISP or mail provider.

Get real about your password

- Stop using your pet's name or spouse's birthdate. It's less important that you remember it than that it's a safe password, particularly if it's getting you access to checking accounts and other financial information. Make them long; use characters from all over the keyboard; and change them often.

Don't go public

- Never use a public network to make financial transactions. You have no way of knowing what kind of risk you're opening yourself up to; surely you can wait a while before checking your bank balance.

Pay attention

- Anybody can start a website, and most people can make it look pretty legitimate. But if the online shop you're considering purchasing from won't take your credit card and demands, say, an online check, run the other way.