From breaking into our bank accounts to bypassing our passwords, we are becoming increasingly familiar with the unpleasant effects of identity theft.

In the USA alone, losses of about $1 billion are registered every year relating to identity theft.

There are ways of keeping on top of your personal online security and it is important to keep up to date with the latest in cybercrime.

Enticing offers

Think twice about clicking on an advertisement pop-up or even filling out a form without reading the terms and conditions carefully. Even normal browsing activities like clicking on an enticing ad or filling out a form for downloadable content can lead to online identity theft when users don’t know what to look for. Keyloggers can be overlaid on seemingly legitimate banking or investment apps and intrusive tracking procedures can be signed off on by users who fail to read terms and conditions notices carefully.

Downloading files

Check that the site you are downloading from is secure before downloading any files. The main files to avoid are ones with extensions ending in exe, scr, bat, com or pif. Double extensions such as a file ending in exe.gif are dangerous too, so don’t download a file ending in either of these.

You can also validate a file’s digital signature by clicking on the publisher link in the security dialogue box when you first download a file.

Clicking on pop-ups

Pop-ups are small windows that appear over the top of web pages in your internet browser and although not all are bad, some can be devastating, delving into your data and wreaking havoc with your personal details.

Pop-ups that are up to no good often include a button that prompts you to close or cancel it, but this doesn’t mean it is going to dismiss the pop-up. Instead, it could trigger another pop-up or even download a virus. Most of us have the facility to block pop-ups on our computers and we should check that this is in place if we keep getting pesky and suspicious alerts.

Some don’t come from websites but from malware or a Trojan Horse that has been secretly installed on our systems. If you discover this and you use the computer for banking and online shopping, then change all your passwords immediately and have the computer thoroughly cleaned by using good security software.

Opening email attachments

Email attachments can carry potential dangers, especially if the email that arrives in your inbox is one you don’t recognise. Don’t be tricked into opening up an attachment even if it is marked “urgent”. In the click of a button your personal online identity could be compromised.

Using information taken from an initial email, cybercriminals can combine seemingly innocent pieces of data like an IP address and the software version you are using to send a more convincing email in the hopes that it’ll grab your attention. This is known as bait mail.

Your spam mail monitor should be reducing the risk of you opening a phishing email, but if by chance one escapes the net and lands in your box, then don’t open it or any of the attachments that come with it.