How to Avoid Digital Identity Theft

How to Avoid Digital Identity Theft

The Internet is a place where you can do just about anything—shop, pay bills, book holidays, buy software/movies, and more. It is also a place for thieves to get a credit card in your name. Identity theft costs the Canadian economy $2.5 billion a year and the FBI calls it America’s fastest growing crime. So what should you do to avoid becoming a victim of this crime?

Purchase a paper shredder and shred all of your personal information, such as your bank statements and tax returns. Avoid placing these documents in your garbage at home or at the office as it may be easy for thieves to gather enough information about you to steal your identity.

Always be on guard. If you find an unsolicited credit card in the mail, cut it up and contact your credit card company immediately. Thieves usually apply for credit cards with stolen identities or sometimes they’ll steal your credit cards straight from your mailbox. Call credit card companies that issue credit cards on spec and tell them to take your name off their mailing list.

Avoid volunteering any information over the phone or online. There’s no such thing as a bank inspector that calls or emails you to verify how much you have in your account. Never offer your birth date, bank account number, credit card details, social insurance number, or any other details over the phone or via email unless you initiated the call. Always verify the numbers someone gives you. There are phishers that pose as collection agents and ask for your personal information to “verify they’ve got the right file.”

Be aware of where and when and how much you spend on your credit cards and debit cards. Online banking is an easy way to do this. Simply go online every week to assess your accounts and spending habits. Criminals don’t need to steal your credit cards to get your identity as they can “skim” it by accessing the devices that you use to make transactions at a store, gas station, or restaurant. Chips on cards are now helping to prevent credit card fraud.

If your computer starts acting strangely or slows down dramatically, get it checked out immediately. Your computer may have been infected with a virus that can track every site you’ve visited and record what you type. Run a virus spyware scan or take your computer to your local Future Shop, Best Buy, or Staples. Ensure that you install the latest anti-virus and spyware detection tools to prevent viruses from attacking your computer.

If you need to make purchases on the Internet, consider getting another credit card with a very small limit. Never raise that limit. That way if something ever happens, it minimizes the potential issues and mess that needs to be cleaned up afterwards.


Merging Vacation Photos From Multiple Cameras

Merging Vacation Photos From Multiple Cameras

I like to travel with my family to different locations around the world. To remember these vacations, we have our own cameras. The advent of digital cameras has made taking many pictures very easy as you don’t have to worry about wasting film. To gain different perspectives and because different things are important to different people, we each usually have our own digital camera that we take pictures with. Cameras are now fairly inexpensive and most are small enough to fit in your pocket.

For those of you who have gone on vacation with family or friends and there are is more than one camera, it results in a dilemma. When you want to show off your digital photo album you have different folders of pictures taken at different times. Alas, there is a solution!

When a digital camera takes a picture, it stores the exact date and time that the picture was taken in a “hidden” section of the picture file called EXIF data.

It is very important at the beginning of your trip to ensure everyone who has a camera has set their date and time to be exactly the same. Make this part of your routine. Take into consideration if you are in a different timezone as well. This is important so you aren’t offset by hour(s) from the other cameras.

When you get back home and have offloaded the pictures from your camera (ensure you make BACKUPS!), you can copy all of the pictures from the different cameras into a single folder. (Check to make sure your file names don’t conflict though chances are very slim that they would.)

If you look at this folder now, all of your pictures will be sorted by file name… which isn’t chronologically. In the past my wife would spends hours renaming files to place them in proper sequence.

Now for some magic… 🙂

A friend of mine recommended an amazing program called “Bulk Rename Utility” – see

This free Windows based program allows you to view the embedded EXIF data/time information on when a picture was taken, sort all of the pictures in that folder by that date/time, and rename them all such that they are in order (e.g. Trip-0001.jpg, Trip-0002.jpg…).

The program is intimidating at first when you try to use it, however after you spend some time with it to understand how it works, it takes less than 1 minute to select a folder and rename thousands of pictures.

As always, I recommend you are working on a COPY of your files that you are renaming in case you make a mistake. Also always make a backup of your precious pictures. And now that you are back home, remember to change your date/time on your camera if you changed it due to timezones.

What nifty programs do you use?


Identity Theft vs. Identity Fraud: Is There a Difference?

Identity Theft vs. Identity Fraud: Is There a Difference?

Crime is always going to exist. Some criminals suffer the consequences of their actions, but some don’t. Despite the laws that the authorities try to enforce, criminals find ways to break them without being caught red handed.

Identity theft is on the rise. Criminals waiting to steal your personal information can easily do so via the Internet as more and more users make financial transactions online and manage their bank accounts on the Internet. Identity theft and identify fraud may seem like the same concept, but there is a difference.

Identity theft occurs when thieves access your personal information, such as your driver’s license, social security number, address, and name to impersonate you. When thieves get access to all of your personal information, stealing your identity is easy.

Once a criminal has your personal information, they can open new accounts under your name. This is called true accounts identity theft. Criminals can also access money in your existing accounts—this is called account takeover.

Identity theft is very serious. Criminals have open access to your money and can destroy your credit rating and financial future. Support groups and the authorities can help individuals who are the unsuspecting victims of this crime.

When a criminal creates fake personal information it’s called identity fraud. When referring to identity fraud, the criminal does not steal personal information or assume a real person’s identity. They use the personal information of a fictitious person. This fake person serves as a mask to commit crimes.

The criminal can make various financial transactions at different banking and credit institutions using this fictional identity. Anyone can be affected especially if they unknowingly made a financial deal with the criminal.

Identity theft and identity fraud are serious crimes. The best way to ensure that you don’t become a victim of these crimes is prevention. Keep your personal information safe and conduct background checks if you suspect that the individual may not be using his or her real identity. Most of all, keep your guard up and be aware at all times.


Securing Mobile Data

Securing Mobile Data

Securing Mobile Data

Securing your mobile data is extremely important as more corporate data is being communicated via email and mobile applications on mobile devices. Traditional security models don’t perform when considering mobile devices. The IT departments in many organizations can’t simply install applications or programs without permission first. Securing your data involves more than just control and command from one place.

1. Ensure Visibility

The ability to get access to emails on mobile devices, such as iPhones and iPads usually requires turning on ActiveSync. But this means that anyone can get onto your network. Different mobile platforms offer different capabilities for security and control. Find out who is accessing your network and how they are doing so. Once you do, then you can implement control policies and block access based on hardware type, OS version, or compliance status. If you do use ActiveSync, match it with the right tools to ensure optimal network security.

2. Do the Basics

Your mobile device management and security technology should be able to handle a number of different security functions. The requirements that you need are remote lock and wipe, password policy, encryption monitoring, jailbreak and root detection, and device restrictions (e.g., password spoofers).

3. Create Clear Policies and Communicate With Staff

Regardless of whether a mobile device is owned or used by the staff or company for work purposes, there will be both corporate and personal information on each mobile device. Ensure that you communicate any and all data security policies to your employees. Consider how to decide what gets stored or archived on company servers and what gets removed if the policies are violated. Another area to keep in mind is privacy and accessibility. Everyone should be familiar with what IT tracks, monitors, and archives.

4. Ensure That You Secure Everything

Secure more than just your email. Make sure that you can see all of the applications that your staff uses and that you can remove any applications that may be a security threat.

5. Stay Flexible

Try to keep up with new devices that are being introduced to the market.  New OS releases will have new features and functionality, which means that there will be new mobile applications and data to secure. Update your security policies as new technologies emerge to secure your mobile data.


Building Your Own PC.. Should you do it? Is it worth it?

Building Your Own PC.. Should you do it? Is it worth it?


Building Your Own PCMore and more people are opting to build their own computer. It’s a good idea as it saves money and allows you to completely customize your computer. Plus, if you build your own computer, you know exactly how your system works. But you can also buy a pre-built computer rather than building one yourself.

Building your own computer allows you to choose and purchase the components that make up your system. This enables you to be completely familiar with your computer and understand how it operates. In addition, there is a certain satisfaction that comes with building your own PC which is invaluable.

You may ask yourself if it’s really worth your time to build your own computer. If you have ample time to construct a PC that works for you, than it definitely is. If you don’t have a lot of time on your hands, then you should consider purchasing a new PC.

There are many PCs that don’t have quality hardware and there are pre-built PCs that do. If you purchase a new PC or a pre-built one, it will most likely be comprised of generic hardware. But building your own PC allows you to choose your components, which also means that you can select the best hardware and ensure that each component functions.

It is more cost effective to build your own PC. Even though you can buy PCs cheaper than a home-built one, it is still in your best interest to build your own PC when considering the hardware and components.

Support is something you should consider if you have built your own PC since there is no service or help available. But there is an increasing community of people who build their own computers, and forums are an invaluable resource for people who may need help fixing their computers. For pre-built computers, there is accessible support, but there is no guarantee that they will be responsible for your PC if it stops working.

Pre-built computers usually come with a warranty on the entire system and an extended service plan. For home-built computers, if you choose high quality hardware, most of the components have warranties. Pre-built computers come with software already installed on the system, but there may be certain software that you would never typically use. If you build your own PC, you can purchase the software that you need and will use even if it does cost you a little more in the long run.


Transferring Files to Your New Computer

Transferring Files to Your New Computer

Have you ever tried to transfer your old files from your old computer to CDs or DVDs after you’ve purchased a new computer? Even though that process does work, there are more efficient ways to transfer your files. One of the best ways to transfer your files is using an external hard drive. Hard drives come in various sizes, from 100 GB to 2 terabytes (TB). Purchase a hard drive with the largest capacity so that all of your files, pictures, music, and videos can fit nicely onto one hard drive. Most often than not, your hard drive will interface with your computer using SATA, eSATA, USB 2.0, or FireWire*. USB is the most common and easiest connection method. USB ports are also generally on most laptops and computers. Ensure that your old and new computers are able to connect to your external hard drive.

USB flash drives are also great devices for transferring files. They are small, inexpensive drives that you can take anywhere. They range in storage size from 1 GB to 64 GB. Most USB flash drives work best with a high-speed USB 2.0 port. If you are transferring a large amount of files, USB flash drives can be significantly slower than an external Hard Drive.

Double check all of your document folders when you transfer your files and keep your old computer for a few days just in case you missed an important file or folder.

After you’ve completed transferring your files, you may no longer need your old computer. Be careful not to simply throw out your computer. There are some parts of your computer that need to be taken to a hazardous waste facility, recycling depot, or given to charity.

Ensure that all of your personal data is completely removed before you throw it out. Your numbers, passwords, and user names will still be stored on your hard drive. It’s important that you destroy this data to prevent identity theft from occurring. Use software that will erase your hard drive or take it to a professional who will destroy it while you watch. Read my prior blog post “Copy Machines Are a Serious Security Risk” for suggestions on software to use. Another option is to take it out and store it in a safe somewhere (or destroy it with a sledge hammer or drill)

Decide if your computer can be donated. If not, simply contact your local electronics recycler or waste facility. Most will recycle your computer for free and some will charge you a small fee. Above all, recycling your computer is the best option.