With increasing amounts of our information being stored online, it is more important than ever to protect yourself from identity theft. The convenience of online shopping, banking, and smartphone apps combined with the desire to share parts of your life with your social media friends can make it all too easy for skilled identity hackers to gather your information. However, there are important steps you can take that will help keep your identity safe.
Create Secure Passwords
Avoid using an obvious word (“password,” for example) or series of numbers (12345). Instead, create a password that uses both letters and numbers. For even more security, make some of the letters capitalized and use symbols (like an exclamation point or question mark) in addition to numbers. Here’s a great online password generator from the folks at Norton Antivirus.
Be Mindful of Social Media Activity
While a photograph of your pet or exciting news about a job promotion are fine to share, draw the line at sharing too much personal information like your address, phone number, Social Security number, or any account numbers that could be used to access any further information about you online.
Sign Up for a Protection Service
For extra peace of mind, consider signing up for an identity theft protection service. Look for one that has at least 3-bureau credit report monitoring, regularly scans the Internet black market for use of your information, and monitors public records for any unauthorized changes made to your information.
Be Wary of Public Wi-Fi
Don’t send personal information over a public Wi-Fi network unless you are certain your information is protected by an encrypted website. In most cases, it’s better to be safe than sorry – just wait until you can use a more secure Internet connection.
Don’t Go “Phishing”
Phishing emails are often designed to expose your computer to virus or spyware that will steal your passwords and information. Don’t open files, click on links, or download any files sent by someone you don’t know and trust.
Identity theft is a serious problem and a worthwhile concern – as the effects often last indefinitely or take years to sort out. However, by taking steps now to protect your valuable information, you can reduce your chances of online criminals.