“I am so worried about protecting myself online. Between phishing, identity theft, and credit card fraud, how can I protect myself online? Should I stop shopping on the internet?”
It’s been reported that 9 in 10 Internet users have had their personal data compromised, though many remain unaware. While it may be impossible to guarantee safety from internet exposure, here are 15 practical steps to protect your identity on the Internet:
- Exclude important personal data from your social media profiles- How well do you know your social media contacts? Are you actual friends with your social media ‘friends’ or are some of them acquaintances or celebrities? Details like your address or phone number or children’s names can provide information helpful to hackers.
- Check your social media privacy settings- Consider limiting all social media profiles to “friends only” or, otherwise, not public; this is especially important when sharing personal information.
- Protect your online passwords and strengthen them too– Use a phrase that is easy to remember; include capital letters and numbers in the place of vowels. Change logins and passwords monthly.
- Use multiple passwords- A universal password for all of your secure log-ins might be convenient but it is not recommended; multiple passwords limit exposure in case one account is compromised.
- Use two-factor authentication– Gain an extra layer of protection for a user log-in. After entering a username and password, a second method is used to verify identity; usually a text message or email with a verification code.
- Check your phone’s privacy settings- Make sure your GPS setting are off, or at least not sharing with social media; applications such as Facebook or Snap Chat have options to share locations.
- Be wary of ‘phishing’ emails- Under no circumstance should you provide personal information or follow a link from an email to provide personal information. If you are unsure if an email if from your bank, call them. Phishing schemes may include job offers, hacking warnings, or financial offers but they all end the same way: trying to trick you into providing personal details.
- Boost your home Wi-Fi- Have you reset the factory password on your home router? More than 40 percent of people fail to take this simple step to protect their home wireless network.
- Stay away from public Wi-Fi– While access to public Wi-Fi in places like a coffee shop can be great for lowering our data usage, it is, unfortunately, notorious for allowing criminals to exploit flaws to access personal data. The best advice? Stick to your data network in public.
- Keep your browser and operating systems updated- The latest version of our computer or phone operating system often include security patches to vulnerabilities discovered over time. It is hassle to make these updates as they become available, but it is worth it.
- Check for secure sites- When entering personal information online or making a purchase, look to the ‘s’ after the ‘http’ in the URL in the browser window, i.e https://wwww.hendersonbrothers.com vs. http://www.hendersonborthers.com.
- Keep a close eye on bank statements- review each bank statement for unfamiliar activity.
- Check your credit report- It sometimes can take victims of credit theft up to a year to learn that they’ve been a target. Checking your three free credit reports each year is the easiest way to make sure no one else is using your credit. If you find potentially fraudulent activity, follow up with a call to the credit bureau and the card issuer.
- Monitor your mail as well as online – If you notice a sudden increase in pre-approved credit card offers or other loans, this could be a sign of trouble. Especially when this happens in tandem with other unusual activity.
- Sign up for credit monitoring if you think you’ve been breached- If you think your data may have been compromised, consider a credit monitoring service. They monitor credit 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and also look out for new accounts and other red flags like change of address.
WSJ: How to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft
The Telegraph: 10 ways to protect your online identity
Forbes: 5 Steps to Protecting Your Identity Online
Please note that the information contained in this posting is designed to provide authoritative and accurate information, in regard to the subject matter covered. However, it is not provided as legal or tax advice and no representation is made as to the sufficiency for your specific company’s needs. This post should be reviewed by your legal counsel or tax consultant before use.