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ITS Safe Computing

Protect Your Identity

The bottom line for online social threats like phishing, spyware, and hackers is identity theft. ID theft occurs when someone uses your name, Social Security number, credit card number or other personal information without your permission to commit fraud or other crimes. That's why it's important to protect your personal information. To find out how to deter and detect identity theft, visit the FTC's identity theft page.

  • Never use the "Remember my Password" function on any website that contains personal or financial information. Anyone using your computer can access the same information or conduct business in your name.
  • If you must store personal information (such as passwords or credit card numbers) on your computer or PDA, use an encryption program to protect them. Another way to keep an electronic record is to create a CD of the sensitive information and store it in a locked place whenever you're not actively using it.
  • Always use a secure (password-enabled) WiFi connection. While on campus, use MWireless.
  • Beware of "phishing" scams designed to lure you into submitting personal information online. These messages may look like official correspondence from a company you do business with, but don't be fooled! Legitimate companies don't request sensitive information via email. If in doubt, call the company's customer service center.
  • Consider using one credit card exclusively for shopping online. That way you can monitor all online purchases on one statement, and keep another card for face-to-face transactions.
  • Before placing an order online, look for a closed "lock" icon on the bottom of the page and make sure the address begins with "https". This signifies that encryption software is being used to create a secure transaction.
  • Storing your credit card information on a shopping or service website may seem convenient, but it puts your credit at risk. Even highly respected online vendors have had their security broken.
  • Unsolicited email and attachments can wreck havoc on your computer. A message may look like it's from a trusted source, but it's possible for an unscrupulous person to pretend to be someone else. If you're not expecting an attachment, don't open it or even reply to it! The safest plan is to delete it and contact the sender in a separate email.
  • Monitor your credit. Order a free credit report at AnnualCreditReport.com, and beware of imposter credit report websites. For more information, see the FTC's Free Credit Report page.
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If You Suspect Your Identity Has Been Compromised

Take these steps now and in the future to detect fraud or identity theft committed using your personal information.

  1. Place an initial fraud alert on your credit file now by contacting any one of the three nationwide credit reporting agencies listed below. The alert will stay on your credit reports for 90 days.

  2. Obtain a free copy of your credit report from one of the three nationwide credit reporting agencies through a jointly administered website, AnnualCreditReport.com. Carefully review your credit report, credit card statements, and other personal financial account information. Look for suspicious activity. This does not include incorrect personal information, which might appear on the report in error. Examples of suspicious activity are new accounts you did not open or purchases you did not make.

    If your personal information is accidentally disclosed or deliberately stolen, taking certain steps quickly can minimize the potential for identity theft. If you see new accounts or other suspicious activity, take these additional steps:

    • Close accounts that you believe have been tampered with.
    • File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. For step-by-step instructions and contact information, see the FTC's identity theft page.
  3. If you find your personal information has been used to commit a fraud, file a report with your local police department. This will allow you to send a copy of the report to creditors that require evidence that you allege a crime has occurred.

  4. Carefully review your personal financial information on an ongoing basis, and periodically obtain a copy of your credit report. You are entitled to receive a free credit file disclosure once every 12 months from each of the three nationwide consumer credit reporting agencies. You can keep checking for new activity at no cost to you throughout the year if you order a free copy from each agency one at a time spaced four months apart.

If You Suspect Your Email Has Been Compromised

See Compromised Accounts to learn how to deal with a compromised account at U-M.

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Social Media

Protect Your Reputation

  • Privacy and security settings exist for a reason.  Learn about and use the privacy and security settings on social networks. They are there to help you control who sees what you post and manage your online experience in a positive way.
  • Once posted, always posted.   Protect your repuation on social networks. Recent research found that 70% of job recruiters rejected candidates based on information they found online.
  • Your online reputation can be a good thing.  Recent research also found that recruiters respond to a strong, positive personal brand online. So show your smarts, thoughfulness, and mastery of the environment.
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Protect Yourself

  • Know and manage your friends.  Use tools to manage the information you share with friends in different groups, or even consider having multiple accounts. If you're trying to create a public persona as a blogger or expert, create an open profile or a "fan" page that encourages broad participation and limits personal information. Use your personal profile to keep your real friends (the ones you know and trust) more synched up with your daily life.
  • Be honest if you're uncomfortable.  If a friend or co-worker posts something about you that makes you uncomfortable or you think is inappropriate, let them know. Likewise, stay open-minded if a friend or co-worker approaches you because something you've posted makes him or her uncomfortable. People have different tolerances for how much the world knows about them — respect those differences. Post only about others as you would have them post about you.
  • Know what action to take.  If someone is harassing or threatening you, remove them from your friends list, block them, and report them to the site adminstrator.
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