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Stolen laptops can lead to identity theft

Jan 07, 2014 Dave King

Identity theft is a crime that can effect just about anyone and causes severe damage to consumer credit scores. One of the biggest causes of this crime is stolen laptops, which enables criminals to steal personal information directly from a person's computer.

Short term lenders need to be one of the first lines of defense against identity theft by stepping up ID verification procedures and providing consumers with the information needed to protect data on laptops.

What should they tell their clients if they ask about best practices to avoid fraud?

- Use password protection: The most basic step consumers can take to protect against identity theft is to make sure laptops are password protected, according to Information Technology Services at the University of Northern Iowa. This code should be a unique combination of letters, numbers and symbols. People who use their names, birthdays or other common passwords, such as "123456" are at much greater risk.

- Install tracking software: After a laptop is stolen, people may think they have no hope of getting it back, but that isn't the case. By installing tracking software, computers can be located using IP address locations and Wi-Fi positioning, according to PC World. The faster a laptop is found, the less the chance of identity theft, so this software could prove invaluable. People may also want to consider software that allows them to wipe their computers clean remotely.

- Limit data that is stored on the laptop: One of the best ways to avoid identity theft is to reduce the amount of information stored on the device. For example, people could consider storing data on external hard drives or in the cloud. By doing so, thieves are unable to get access to personal information if their laptop is stolen. Many computers these days allow consumers to store credit card and other important information directly on the hard drive, but this should be avoided at all costs as it just makes the job of criminals much easier if they get access to the computer.

- Encrypt the laptop: To protect all information on a laptop, people may want to consider encrypting their computers. This doesn't ensure that thieves can't gain access to data, but it presents an extra obstacle. With password protection and encryption, criminals will have a much harder time stealing a person's identity.