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The Resource Center Online Security Issues & Protection | article

Why a Stolen Computer Is a Target for Identity Theft

Many consumers today rely on their computers for storing much of their critical information. While keeping that data on a computer can be convenient, it may also make an individual more vulnerable to identity theft. A stolen computer can be a prime resource for someone looking to steal a person’s private details, making it important for consumers to take extra precautions to protect their systems.

Help keep a computer safe
Some individuals may bring their laptop around with them on a daily basis, heading to and from the office or perhaps sitting in a cafe to get some work done. No matter where they take their laptop, consumers should be sure to keep an eye on it at all times and never leave it unattended. A desktop computer may be more secure than a laptop if homeowners remember to lock their doors and windows. However, they can still be tapped for information if a burglar breaks in and steals it. For that reason, it’s important for consumers to practice security habits on both their desktop computer and laptop.

  1. Use passwords — If a computer is stolen, a login password can prevent an identity thief from accessing its information. When possible, passwords should include a combination of letters, numbers and symbols to make them more difficult to crack. Additionally, individuals should vary the passwords they use for different programs and ensure that their computer does not automatically save their login information when they’re online. They should also never save a list of passwords in a document on their computer.
  2. If a computer is stolen, change online passwords — Computer users should immediately change the login information to all their online accounts if their computer is stolen. Doing so may help provide another layer of protection for key personal information, which can include online banking, credit and billing accounts.
  3. Inform account providers — Victims should contact their bank, credit card company, lending institution, or any other relevant account issuer to let them know their information may be compromised. This may also include warning financial institutions to be on the alert for identity theft. Victims who check their credit reports and scores may also be able to point out recent expenses they did not authorize, which could provide evidence of what actions identity thieves are taking with their computer.