A little self-defense can go a long way toward protecting yourself against identity theft. You may not realize it, but shopping, banking, working, and connecting with friends online are all activities that may allow unwanted individuals to collect information about you. Fortunately, there are things you can do to protect yourself. Take the following steps to help keep your identity safe in the digital space.
Beef up your home wireless network security
Your wireless network is the gateway to online activities at home. It’s important to make sure it’s secure so that you can prevent unwanted access while still providing access to authorized users.
Implement wireless network security measures and protect your online activities by creating secure router passwords, turning on encryption, and enabling firewalls on your computer.
Use secure sites
Using the internet requires some virtual street-smarts to make sure you don’t end up handing over your wallet in a seedy virtual neighborhood.
Before entering username and password information, make sure the website’s URL on the login page begins with “https” rather than “http.” The “s” in “https” stands for “secure,” and basically ensures that your information is encrypted so that it can be transmitted safely.
It’s okay if a site’s homepage begins with “http,” but the ending “s” should be present on pages where you log on. Reputable merchants and online banks will always use this type of encryption on their sites.
Set strong online passwords
Managing a slew of passwords is just a fact of modern life. But getting lazy with them will make you vulnerable to identity theft. Create strong passwords for every login you create. This means logins to websites, accounts, and devices.
Experts suggest using passwords that combine numbers, letters, and upper- and lowercase letters. It’s also a good idea not to use common phrases or dates, such as your name or birthday.
Vary your passwords from one online account to another and if you write them down, keep them in a safe place. Avoid sharing your passwords with anyone.
Avoid “phishing” scams
Scammers send out fake emails to random addresses to trick people into divulging personal information. This activity is known as “phishing.”
Be cautious about what you read or receive online and be suspicious of any email you receive requesting sensitive information. Companies you already have an account with typically won’t ask via email for information they already have.
Use public hotspots wisely
Many businesses and public places offer a “WiFi hotspot” for people to access the internet away from home. You usually can use this convenience with no problem, but it’s a good idea to be cautious. Notice who is behind and around you. Check the network’s privacy information page when you first sign in, and make sure your own device’s security software is up-to-date.
Secure your mobile devices
Don’t leave your phone, laptop, tablet, or other internet-enabled device unattended in a public place. Besides the fact that you don’t want to be out the cost of replacement, keeping your devices secure helps keep your personal information secure.
Make sure your device’s software is up-to-date, as the updates usually fix some security vulnerabilities. Use a code to unlock your phone or tablet. If your device is equipped, set up a biometric authentication method like fingerprint or facial recognition to unlock it for use.
Be careful which apps you download. Read reviews and only download apps from trusted developers. Take time to set up the remote location-tracking capability specific to your device. Often these applications will provide a way to wipe your information remotely should you lose track of your device.
Monitor your accounts
Reviewing your accounts regularly is an important part of keeping your financial identity safe. Keep tabs on your recent transactions and balances and monitor your credit card accounts.
If you notice errors or suspicious activity, you can report and resolve them quickly. Check your credit report annually—at minimum—for any activity that you have not authorized or that appears to be incorrect.
Use social media judiciously
It’s fun to connect with friends and family online, but be careful what you follow, post, and click. Games, plug-ins, and even images can be provided by third party developers and not the social network itself. Consider restricting your online profile and review your privacy settings periodically.
Last Edited: December 4, 2017