Websites offer tips on personal data safeguards

Keeping online accounts safe from hackers and identity thieves takes forethought and diligence.

These resources outline the dangers, and the steps to take to stay protected from cybercrooks.

Passwords are the keys to your online life. Money magazine's Angela Wu notes that hackers have proven methods to discover passwords, with a range of techniques such as "brute force" attacks and "phishing"

The latter is simply the brazen business of asking people for account information.

The amazing part is that it can be so diabolically successful. Check

Personal firewalls and security software are recommended by the Securities and Exchange Commission for those using online brokerage accounts. The SEC also warns about phishing and about the importance of choosing passwords that aren't easily guessed by someone snooping around your Facebook page for your dog's name or the digits in your address. Check out investment offers, read account statements, log out completely when you're leaving an online financial account, and monitor your credit report. There's a lot to remember.

— If your identity is stolen, go to the Federal Trade Commission site for a rundown on what to do next. Among the many steps you need to consider, you should call the police and make a report and file a complaint with the trade commission. You also should close accounts that may be compromised and consider placing a fraud alert on your credit reports to stop a thief from opening new accounts in your name.

— Fending off "online banking thugs" is the subject of this post at It says malware — software that thieves sneak onto your computer — is the biggest threat to bank-account security. Watch out for free software offers and pop-ups, and consider setting up a dedicated computer at home that's just for banking. A recent phishing variation is called smishing. "Smishing occurs when you get a dubious text message from a fraudster posing as a bank representative." Be afraid.

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