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Don't be an internet victim | Community Spirit

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Don't be an internet victim
Don't be an internet victim

LITTLE ROCK – The Internet is a common and increasingly essential part of everyone’s life, utilized for bill payments, shopping and a variety of everyday activities. However, Internet users may also be targets for criminals who use personal or financial information commit identity theft.

June is Internet Safety Month. And, in an effort to encourage safe practices online, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel today issued this consumer alert to provide Arkansans with tips on how to better protect their identity and financial integrity on the Internet.

“Everyone can take steps to avoid becoming a victim of identity theft while on the Internet,” McDaniel said. “It’s necessary to take a few simple precautions to avoid the costly headache of repairing the damage caused by an identity thief. No Arkansan should be denied a loan or a job because they’ve been victims of identity theft.”

The Federal Trade Commission estimates that about 9 million Americans have their identities stolen each year.

McDaniel advised consumers of a number of ways they can avoid having their identities compromised online:

* Never respond to an e-mail that asks you to transmit personal information over the Internet. So-called “phishing” schemes involve con artists pretending to be financial institutions, credit card companies, telephone companies, and other legitimate creditors who request “verification” of  account numbers or social security numbers. These scammers then may use that information to create false identities. Reputable institutions with which consumers do business already have account numbers, PINs, access codes, and other information they need. They won't e-mail to ask for it.

*Anyone claiming to represent a contest or sweepstakes promotion should not be given financial information; such emails are likely fraudulent.

*Reputable e-commerce web sites require shoppers to log in before placing or viewing an order. The shopper is usually required to provide a username and a password. Never reveal a password to anyone. When selecting a password, do not use commonly known information, and do not reuse the same password for different sites.

*Enable privacy settings on social networking sites. A recent study showed that 70 million people have shared their birthplace on social-networking sites and about 20 million provided their pet’s name. That information is the same that many people are asked to verify when setting email passwords or banking online.

*Check your credit report regularly to monitor for evidence of potential identity theft. There is only one legitimate source for free and secure credit reports. It is www.annualcreditreport.com, a website sponsored by the FTC.   

Identity theft victims should act quickly. Questionable financial activity should be reported as soon as it’s discovered. After that, victims should gather all supporting evidence and file a police report. Any compromised accounts should be canceled.

Victims of identity theft should also file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office. To contact the office, call the Attorney General’s Consumer Hotline at (501) 682-2341 or (800) 482-8982.

For more information on online identity theft and other forms of the crime, visit www.arkansasag.gov.