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One Step Ahead
February 3, 2009, Volume 55, No. 20

One Step Ahead

Another tip in a series provided by the Offices of Information Systems & Computing and Audit, Compliance & Privacy.

Reminder: Stay Vigilant About Identity Theft!

In these turbulent economic times it is easy to be distracted from important financial basics, such as remaining vigilant about identity theft. Unfortunately, however, major incidents of identity theft continue to occur.  This point was brought home recently when a data processing company announced that intruders had hacked into a system that processes 100 million payment card transactions each month. The total number of stolen records in this incident is not yet known, nor is the number of potential identity theft victims.

In our online world, it is virtually impossible to wholly eliminate your risk of being a victim of identity theft. However, there are many important ways to significantly lower your risk of falling victim to this crime. For example:

• Do not give out personal information unless you’ve initiated the contact or are sure you know with whom you are dealing.

• Guard your mail and trash from theft. Tear or shred documents containing your personal information.

• Place hard-to-guess passwords on your credit card, bank and phone accounts when possible.

• Do not leave your wallet, briefcase, laptop or other property unattended as such property will often provide thieves with most or all of what they need to open up credit accounts in your name.

• Get off pre-approved credit offer lists. Don’t let “dumpster divers” get these offers and sign up for them in your name (but at a different address!). Penn’s Privacy website—www.upenn.edu/privacy—describes how to “opt out” of receiving such offers under the “Manage Your Information” tab.

• Secure your computer with anti-virus software, strong passwords, promptly-applied security patches and a personal firewall.

• Check your personal credit report regularly, or at least once a year, to see if your identity has been compromised. A free credit report is available at www.annualcreditreport.com

For more information, visit www.ftc.gov and click on “Avoid ID Theft,” under “Hot Topics.”


To receive weekly OneStepAhead  tips via email, send email to listserv@lists.upenn.edu with the following text in the body of the message:  sub one-step-ahead <your name>.

For additional tips, see the One Step Ahead link on the Information Security website: www.upenn.edu/computing/security/.

Almanac - February 3, 2009, Volume 55, No. 20