Access to information and entertainment, credit and financial services, and products from every corner of the world is greater than earlier generations could ever have imagined. Thanks to the Internet, consumers may order products, download games and music, or conduct online banking 24 hours a day.
However, the flip side is that the Internet also affords online scammers, hackers, and identity thieves access to personal computers, information, finances, and much more. According to the Federal Trade Commission, there are millions of victims of identity theft a year. It's often difficult to know how thieves obtain a victim's personal information, but instances of ID theft often start when online data is stolen.
The following is a glossary of terms, provided by the Federal Trade Commission, aimed at educating consumers on various software and computer scams used to steal and protect individuals from ID theft:
Protects personal computers from viruses that can destroy data, slow a computer's performance, cause a crash, or even allow spammers to send email through a private account.
Shorthand for "business opportunity;" some schemes involve extravagant and unfounded earnings - claims and are actually fraudulent business ventures.
A common spyware program that changes a web browser's home page automatically, even if the owner changes it back.
A law that prohibits senders of unsolicited commercial email from using false or misleading header information or deceptive subject lines, and requires they identify each email as an advertisement, among other provisions.
To copy files from one computer to another; to view a website or other web material with a browser.
Software that installs on a computer without the owner's knowledge when he or she visits certain websites. To avoid drive-by downloads, make sure to update operating system and Web browser regularly.
The scrambling of data into a secret code that can be read only by software set to decode the information.
End User Licensing Agreement (EULA)
A provider's legal terms. An "end user" may be required to "click" to accept before downloading software.
When sensitive data is released to someone without authorization.
Software that screens information on the Internet, classifies its content, and allows the user to block certain kinds of content.
Hardware or software that helps keep hackers from using a personal computer to send out personal information without permission.
Someone who uses the Internet to access computers without permission.
Programs that a user may unknowingly download that can use a computer to silently dial expensive phone calls which later show up on a phone bill.
A computer's "address," which consists of a series of numbers separated by periods.
A device or program that records each keystroke typed on a particular computer.
Criminals sometimes use malware, programs like viruses and spyware, to get into a personal computer. Once there, the criminal can steal information, send spam, and commit fraud
Compiling information about consumers' preferences and interests by tracking their online movements and actions in order to create targeted ads.
Information that can identify someone, such as bank and credit card numbers; income; Social Security Number; or name, address and phone numbers
A scam that involves Internet fraudsters who send span or pop-up messages to lure personal information from unsuspecting victims.
Home computers that have been taken over by spammers who then use them to send spam in a way that hides the true origin.
Unsolicited commercial email, often sent in bulk qualities.
Software program that may be installed on a personal computer without the owner's consent to monitor his or her use, send pop-up ads, redirect the computer to certain websites, or record keystrokes, which could lead to identity theft.
Programs that, when installed on a computer, can enable unauthorized people to access it and sometimes send spam from it.
A program that can sneak onto a computer - often through an email attachment - and then make copies of itself, quickly using up all available memory.
Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA)
A security protocol developed to fix flaws in WEP. Encrypts data sent to and from wireless devices within a network.
A program that reproduces itself over a network and can use up a computer's resources and possibly shut the system down.
With awareness as a safety net, computer users conducting online banking or other activities that require the use of personal information can minimize the chances of identity theft. Vigilance is required when it comes to protecting personal information, a computer, and even yourself.