Protect your online ID ID theft

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This article, Protect your online ID, was last updated on 23 July 2008 and is now out of date and held in our online archive for reference. Explore our latest Technology articles.

A screengrab of Firefox's history panel

You should clear your browser history after using a public PC

All internet browsers collect personal information about what you do and where you go online.

For instance they use cookies; small text files that store information about you, such as login details and passwords. 

Browsers also keep records of the web pages that you visit in their history files.

While cookies and history files have their uses they can expose your personal information to fraudsters. 

Armed with a few choice facts about you, an ID thief might be able to open a bank account in your name or, worse, access your bank or credit card account.

A criminal could run up debts, apply for benefits or even attempt to obtain a passport or driver’s licence in your name.

How do I delete my browser history?

If you’re using a public PC (in a library or cybercafé, say) it’s wise to clear your browser history when you're done.

For computers running Internet Explorer, do this by going to Tools > Internet options from the main menu and then under 'Browsing History', click Delete > Delete history > Yes

For those using Firefox instead you should go to Tools > Options and then select the 'Privacy' tab. Under 'Private Data', click Clear Now.

How do I delete my cookies?

Cookies can store personal data such as your login and password within your web browser. 

To keep your virtual paper trail clean, delete your cookies, especially at the end of any public computer session.

Microsoft Internet Explorer

Go to Tools > Internet options. On the 'General tab' under 'Browsing History', click Delete > Delete Cookies > Yes

Mozilla Firefox

Go to Tools > Options > select the Privacy tab. Under 'Private Data', click Settings then put a tick next to Cookies. Click Clear Private Data Now> OK

How do I block pop-ups?

Pop-ups are small windows that open automatically when you visit certain web pages. Many are just annoying or confusing, but they can also contain malicious code or phishing scams. 

Both IE and Firefox have built-in pop-up blockers. Bear in mind that some sites use pop-ups legitimately, so you may have to manually allow pop-ups for individual sites.

Microsoft Internet Explorer

Go to Tools > Internet Options and select the Privacy tab. Make sure there’s a tick next to ‘Turn on pop-up blocker’ and then click Settings to add an allowed website.

Mozilla FireFox

Go to Tools > Options and tick 'Block pop-up windows' under the 'Content' tab. Click Exceptions to add an allowed website.

To find out how to keep the information stored on your computer safe, watch the .