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Protecting against identity theft: cleaning out your "digital dust"

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Protecting yourself from computer hackers and identity theft may be as simple as cleaning out your digital dust.  

Many of us are taking time for spring cleaning around our homes, but while you're at it, many computer companies suggest cleaning out something else that could make you a victim of identity theft.

Although we may not think about it every day, our technology is creating some cobwebs of it's own and could use a little sprucing up every once in a while.  

"Any time you have stagnation with passwords and things like that, you are opening yourself up to risks," Andrew Brandt, with All Star Computers, told us. "Hackers are always using key loggers and password breaking tools to get into bank accounts and things like that," he added. 

One of the biggest risks is identity theft.

"Taking care of personal information and protecting yourself from identity theft is primarily the person's responsibility," Janna Kiehl with the Better Business Bureau said. 

But don't panic just yet, there are some simple steps you can take to help protect yourself, starting with your password.

"Passwords should always be changed on a regular basis. You want to keep it very personal to you. Not something obvious," Kiehl said. 

"The worst thing you can do is have a password as 'password' or 'admen' or '1234'" Brandt told us. 

Brandt also suggests spending a few minutes organizing your email and updating your anti-virus software.

"Just make sure it's automatically updating and doing a full scan of your computer to make sure there is no mal-ware or spy ware hanging out in the registry of your computer," he said. 

While cleaning out that digital dust is important, you may also want to take some time to clean out the literal dust that can build up inside of your computer tower.

"If you have a PC that's sitting on the side of your computer, it's full of static electricity so it's collects a lot of dust. So as you're spring cleaning it wouldn't be a bad idea to take a can of air duster and just spray off some of the component so the heat doesn't get trapped in there and warp some of the internal components of the computer," Brandt said. 

While you're at it, doctors suggest wiping down your keyboard and mouse, especially in a public environment where lots of people can pass germs this time of year.  
    
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