Six ways to stay safer online
Watch out for imposters
The fastest-growing scam in the past year has been imposter fraud, according to the latest annual report on consumer complaints from the Federal Trade Commission. Thieves claiming to be someone they're not (such as a friend or relative stranded overseas in need of cash to get home, a bill collector, or an employee of a government agency) use Facebook messages, e-mail, phone calls, and text messages to persuade people to send money or divulge personal information such as Social Security or account numbers. Last year, 60,000 people reported that they were affected by this form of fraud, up from just five cases reported in 2008.
Learn to parallel park
Car thieves are becoming more professional. They're stealing new cars by putting them on a flatbed tow truck, our expert says. Parallel parking hinders access to the front and rear of your car, making it difficult to tow. Also, be careful about whom you bump into at the grocery store, especially if your car has keyless entry and a push-button ignition. A thief with an antenna and a small kit of electronics can transmit your key's code to another thief standing near your car, allowing him to open it, start it, and drive it away.
Hide the stuff in your car
Don't leave electronics and other valuables visible inside your car. GPS units are less of a magnet these days; cell phones and laptops more so. Holiday gifts are a big target, so don't stack them up in the backseat. Is there a worse move? Yes. Leaving your stuff in the back of a pickup truck.
Change your PIN
Make it a habit to routinely change the secret code for your debit card or ATM card. That gives you better protection against any thieves or skimming schemes.
Keep a financial inventory
Once a year take out all of the cards in your wallet, make a list of the account numbers and contact information you'll need to cancel cards if they become lost or stolen, and hide it in a safe place, says Mark Rasch, a former Department of Justice computer-crime prosecutor who is a director at CSC, a business technology firm based in Falls Church, Va.
Change your Wi-Fi password
If you have a home wireless network, choose the highest-security option. That way your Web-browsing and financial transactions will be more protected. Go a step further and create your own administrative password rather than rely on a default password supplied by the router.