Protecting personal details ID protection

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This article, Protecting personal details, was last updated on 30 July 2008 and is now out of date and held in our online archive for reference. Explore our latest Technology articles.

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"How can I keep my details private online?"

Your identity and personal details are extremely valuable. If they're stolen, they can be used to open bank accounts and credit cards, to claim benefits and much more – all in your name.

You can do a lot to protect yourself by shredding important documents. But when it comes to your computer it's not enough to rely on anti-virus software. Use common sense in all your online dealings and always be suspicious if someone asks for your personal details. Making a few basic changes to your browser settings can also make a big difference to the safety of your personal details.

If you suspect another person is using your identity, report it to the police immediately. You'll find more advice at the Home Office's dedicated webpage .

Delete all records

To reduce the time it takes to download a webpage, most browsers store copies of frequently viewed pages on your computer's hard disk. Unfortunately this 'cache' can be a potential security risk if others use your computer. To empty it:

In Internet Explorer, go to Tools > Internet options. Under the General tab is a box for Temporary Internet Files. Click Delete all files to remove all the files stored in your cache.

A cookie is a small file that some websites send to your computer that allows the site to recognise you with each visit. Many sites won't function properly if you block them, but because some cookies contain details about your internet use it's a good idea to do a regular clear out. To delete them follow the earlier instructions and click Delete all cookies instead. For more options go to:

Tools > Internet options > Privacy. Click Sites to specify which websites you're happy to accept cookies from, or Advanced to block them.

There are some web browser add-ons that can enhance your security.