Software

18 Surprising Ways Your Identity Can Be Stolen

Most people have already been victims of the most basic forms of identity theft — having fraudulent charges on your credit card. Those even less lucky have been victimized in more aggressive ways, with criminals obtaining medical care, working, and flying in our names.

Unwinding that mess can take years and thousands of dollars. The effect is exacerbated by the fact that the crime doesn’t generally stop with the one person who stole your information. Credit card numbers, Social Security numbers, and other data gets packaged and sold on the underground Internet so that different people all over the world could be impersonating you at the same time.

“It’s a pain. It does cause a lot of stress,” said Lindsay Bartsh, of San Rafael, California, who said that straightening out a web of fraudulent medical bills, flights, job applications, and credit applications took every minute of her free time for a year.

How does it happen? Here’s a look at both the most common ways thieves steal our data, as well as some of the newest ploys to watch out for.

1. Mail Theft

Bartsh believes this time-honored tactic is how her personal information got out into the criminal underworld. An expected W-2 tax form never arrived. Assuming it was stolen, it would have given thieves a wealth of information, such as Social Security number and workplace.

2. Database Hacks

When a large corporation gets hacked, the effect can be widespread. When the U.S. government’s Office of Personnel Management was breached, some 22 million people had their personal information exposed. (I was one of the many who received a warning about this, because I had a writing contract with a government agency.)

3. Malicious Software

If you have a virus on your computer, you may suffer more than a slowdown or a system crash. Some malicious programs that spread as viruses record every keystroke you type, allowing thieves to find out your online banking username and password. These programs can infect your mobile phone as well as your computer.

4. Search Engine Poisoning

This is a sneaky way of tricking people into giving up their own personal data, or getting malicious software onto a person’s computer. The criminals create a fake website similar to a real one, or that could plausibly be a real one.

One tactic is for you to click through to the fake site and try to buy a product, entering your credit card or debit card number. Another way they try to get you is for you to unknowingly download information-stealing software onto your computer.

Where does the search engine part come in? These criminals manipulate Google and other search engines’ algorithms to get their phony sites ranked high in search listings, leading users to believe they must be legit. Fortunately, Google has made progress in preventing this in recent years, but it still happens.

5. Phishing

Phishing is a term that broadly means “fishing” for personal information through a variety of common social interactions — so-called “social engineering.” The most common phishing attack happens when you get an email that looks like it came from your bank or another legitimate company. It may come with an alarming subject line, such as “overdraft warning” or “your order has shipped.” When you click a link in the email, you may see a login screen identical to your normal login, which will trick you into entering your username and password. You could also be asked for more identifying details, such as Social Security number and account number.

Fortunately, banks have put some countermeasures into place to fight phishing. You can also protect yourself by not responding directly to incoming messages. If you get an email that looks like it’s from your bank, type your bank address into your browser instead of clicking the link, sign in, and check your account’s message center. Or just call your bank’s customer service number.

6. Phone Attacks

The Internal Revenue Service has been warning for several years that scammers are calling people claiming to be the…

What’s the Difference Between Office 365 and Office 2016?

There are two ways you can buy Microsoft Office. You can buy the traditional Microsoft Office 2016 product, or get it as part of an Office 365 software subscription. Here’s the difference.

Office 2016 vs. Office 365

Here’s the main difference: Office 2016 is the the traditional Microsoft Office product, sold for a one-time, up-front fee. You pay once to buy a version of Office 2016 you can install on a single PC or Mac and use for as long as you like. There’s no expiration date.

Office 365, on the other hand, is the new way Microsoft wants you to buy Office. Rather than paying a hefty up-front price, you pay a monthly or yearly fee and get access to the latest version of Office for as long as you pay the fee. You also get additional OneDrive cloud storage and access to the Office apps for tablets. You can choose a subscription that allows you to install Office on up to five different computers, sharing it with your family, or just get Office for yourself.

Office 2016: A Traditional Software Product

Office 2016 is a traditional software product. Microsoft sells “Office Home & Student 2016” for home users, and there are a few more expensive versions that include additional applications more frequently used by business users.

After paying the up-front fee, you get an Office 2016 license. You don’t even get a physical disc with Office 2016. Instead, you either buy a physical “key card” with a download code on it, or you buy a digital download that’s emailed to you.

This Office package only includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. This package does not include Outlook, Publisher, and Access.

You can download and use Office 2016 for as long as you want. You own it. You’ll never have to pay anything else. However, when Microsoft releases a new version of Office, you’ll have to pay to buy the new version of Office, or be stuck with Office 2016 until you pay once again.

When buying Office 2016, you must choose between the “Office Home & Student 2016” product for Windows PCs and the “Office Home & Student 2016 for Mac” product for Macs (both of which cost $150). If you switch from a Mac to a Windows PC, or vice versa, you must buy Office again.

You can only install Office 2016 on a single PC or Mac at a time. You can deactivate it and move it to another PC, but you’ll need buy another license key if you want it installed on two computers at a time.

Office 365 Personal: An Office Subscription for One Person

Office 365 is Microsoft’s new method of selling and distributing Office. Office 365 Personal is the subscription plan designed for a single person who needs Office on a single computer. Office 365 gives you access to download and use the latest version of Office. Right now that’s Office 2016, but as soon as a new version comes out, you’ll be able to upgrade as part of your subscription without paying an additional fee.

You can either subscribe through your Microsoft account with a credit card or buy yearly Office 365 codes and add them to your account to redeem subscription time. Microsoft charges $70 per year or $7 per month for Office 365 Personal. Microsoft also offers a one-month free trial of Office 365 Personal, so you can try it before paying anything.

The Office 365 package includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. However,…