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Protect yourself against 'cyber crimes'

June 5, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
In the last year, one out of every five Americans was hit by some form of "cyber crime." A cyber crime is when a computer is infected with spyware or viruses, when you experience a "phishing" scam, or when you are a victim of identity theft. Consumer experts say you can protect yourself for free.Lawrence Robreno knows the misery of having his identity stolen.

"They pretended they were me, calling up, making phone calls with my name, using my credit card, my information," said Lawrence.

Lawrence, like more than a million others in the last year, had his identity stolen while shopping online.

"They started out small, in $15, $25 increments, and they slowly increased," said Lawrence. "I tallied it up to somewhere close to $25,000."

Consumer Reports cautions that you should only shop at sites you trust. It is also essential to protect your computer from spyware, viruses and spam by installing security software.

Consumer Reports tested security suites costing between $50 and $90. But experts found free security software that is on par with the best.

Consumer Reports recommends:

You also want to protect against phishing. E-mails may look like they come from banks and other companies, but are actually lures to gain access to your accounts.

"Never click on links in e-mails that go to banks or other sites that have your personal information," said Dean Gallea, Consumer Reports.

Gallea says you should type the company's Web address into your browser. For more protection, Consumer Reports recommends downloading free anti-phishing software, such as the McAfee SiteAdvisor, which warns when you go to a dangerous site.

Consumer Reports says Apple computers are much less likely to be attacked by viruses and spyware. However, since Macs can transmit infected files to Windows PCs, even within a home network, Consumer Reports recommends installing an antivirus program, such as Norton AntiVirus 11 for Mac, which costs $50.

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