Simple steps to keep your identity safe online

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June is Internet Safety Month, and simple identity theft protection steps such as shredding your mail and keeping careful tabs on your bank accounts and credit cards are essential first layers of protection against identity thieves. But there is an open door in many homes that is inviting criminals into personal information, and it is often left unprotected – the computer.

A recent study by online security provider Tiversa found more than 13 million online files have been breached over the last year, and P2P sharing services seem to be a popular way for criminals to get in.

There are steps consumers can take to reduce their risk for identity theft through the use of P2P file sharing services. LifeLock offers the following online safety tips:

  • Install file-sharing software carefully, taking special note of default settings and permissions placed on shared folders
  • Use security software and make sure you keep it up-to-date. You can set most anti-virus and anti-spyware protection programs to update automatically and regularly
  • Be sure to close your connections when you are done with a file-sharing session. Closing the window doesn’t automatically close the connection, which could leave your computer’s information vulnerable
  • Maintain backups of all important documents. This will ensure your information is maintained for your personal use should you need to delete it from your computer or any file
  • Talk with your family about safe file-sharing practices, and create separate user accounts for others who may use your computer. By separating accounts you can prevent others from installing software on your computer that may expose your information
  • Before providing personal information to your doctor, attorney, insurance company, employer or anyone else make sure to ask for details on how they will keep this data secure

Identity theft is costing Americans more than $1.8 billion annually, according to the Federal Trade Commission, and the latest FTC reports show the number of identity theft complaints has grown by 80 percent since 2000. Among the forms of identity theft and fraud reported to the FTC in 2008 are credit card fraud, medical benefit fraud and falsified government or employment documents.