Odds are that you access the internet at least once every day, whether that’s to check your online bank account, read the news or make a purchase. Whatever you’re using the web for, it’s always best to nurture good security habits so your sensitive information remains private.
Here are some tips to help you stay safe online:
- Be aware of phishing attempts: Don’t click on emails that look suspicious in any way because they could be emails meant to install malware on your computer. Even if an email looks legitimate, you should be suspicious if it asks you to click on a link or submit special login or identifying information.
- Buy only from trusted retailers: Online shopping can be quick, easy and efficient, but make sure you’re only making purchases through retailers you trust and have used before. Larger businesses are more likely to invest in sophisticated security systems, making it safer for you to enter your payment information. With a small online business you’ve never used, you run a higher risk of having your data compromised.
- Check your credit report: It’s crucial to check your credit report regularly for inaccurate information that could be a sign of fraudulent activity on your accounts. Call one of the three U.S. credit bureaus and order your free annual report today. You can also sign up for a credit monitoring service for extra protection.
- Look through your mail: If you’re suddenly receiving more financial offers than usual, like pre-approved credit cards, then that could be a sign that you’ve become a victim of identity theft. Contact your bank and the U.S. credit bureaus to review your information for any activity you don’t recognize.
- Make your Wi-Fi network private: Password protect your Wi-Fi network so hackers won’t be able to use the connection to install malware or steal information. Also be aware that as you’re running errands and accessing online banking through your mobile phone, the network you’re using could be vulnerable to attack. Save your important browsing for home.
- Shred your financial documents: This may seem unrelated, but many identity thieves actually get their information while dumpster diving. They can then use the account numbers and personal information they’ve found to apply for credit in your name.
- Use strong, unique passwords: Stop using your pet’s name as your login password. Instead, create passwords that are at least eight characters long and are complicated, random and unique to each online account. This way, if a hacker should discover one password, they still won’t have access to your entire online collection of data. If you have trouble keeping up with all your passwords, try using an online password manager to keep them secure yet accessible.
- Use your credit card: If an online shopping site offers to let you check out with PayPal, your debit card or your credit card, it’s always best to use your credit card. This is recommended because fraudulent charges will automatically be covered by most credit card issuers. With PayPal and your debit card, on the other hand, you’re paying with your own money, so there’s a chance you might not get all of it back.
Don’t let cyber criminals get the best of you in 2015. Step up your online security habits and foster a safer digital environment for yourself and your family.