Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Internet safety for grandparents: How to avoid identity theft, bank, and credit card fraud


By Brenda Coxe

With all the incidents of identity theft, fraudulent bank account transactions, and credit card fraud, the age of computers has created havoc in the world. For the younger users, and even the older ones who have been using the Internet for some years, it's just a part of everyday Internet life. They know it happens, and they know what they need to do in order to prevent it; or at least minimize the chances of it occurring.

For those older men and women new to the computer, it can be scary to think how easy it is for someone to access their information. I've spoken to people who are scared of even ordering online because of the potential that someone is watching and can obtain their credit or debit card information. In nine years on the Internet, I have never been a victim of any kind of fraud, but there are precautions you need to take in order to assure safety of your personal information when you surf the Internet.

Keep your virus protection up to date

Having virus protection is not as simple as just purchasing a product and installing it on your computer. New viruses come out every week, sometimes every day, so you need to make sure your definitions are up to date. Most antivirus programs have the ability to run in the background and install new updates as they become available.

You also need to make sure to routinely run a complete system scan, especially after your virus definitions are updated. This is essential in order to eradicate any viruses that may have entered your computer prior to the last definition update. New virus definitions will not automatically remove existing viruses--you need to scan your computer so the antivirus program can detect new viruses and remove them.

Install a firewall

Most Windows computers come with Microsoft Windows Firewall installed, but people have different preferences. I personally prefer Norton Internet Security, which has antivirus protection, firewall, and anti-phishing if you have the 2007 version. Some surfers prefer MacAfee firewall and antivirus protection, while others use some of the free programs available online. You have to make up your own mind what works best for you, but make certain to have a good, solid firewall.

Another important aspect is to make certain you keep your firewall set to the "stealth" mode so hackers won't know you're online. This is extremely important because of so many people using wireless routers with laptops. Someone with a laptop can come into your area, pick up your signal, and be able to access the information on your computer. A good firewall will block any intrusion attempts.