The internet is a vast and wonderful place! You can buy just about anything. You can share news and pictures with family and friends near and far. And you can access it from virtually everywhere and on any device. From your home PC to your mobile or tablet; when shopping, travelling, or even at the doctor’s office. But with this convenience comes some dangers. Identity thieves are also enjoying the internet by using sophisticated technology to steal personal information and commit fraud on unsuspecting people.
Safe Online Practices
With so much accessibility, it’s more important than ever to be aware of how to help protect your identity on your digital devices. Here are some online safety practices to keep in mind:
- Avoid phishing scams: Don’t click on any links that are emailed to you from an unfamiliar source, because sometimes these links contain malware that can steal your information. It’s best to delete unknown emails without opening them and running the risk of downloading a virus. To be safe, install anti-viral software on your desktop or laptop.
- Don’t hand out your information over any device: Refrain from giving anybody your personal information over the phone or online. Official, legitimate institutions will not ask you for sensitive data over insecure networks, so be aware that email or phone inquiries could be the work of cyber-criminals. It’s much better to give an organization your information in person. Remember that criminals sometimes go as far as creating fraudulent websites to attract innocent victims and gain login credentials as well as Social Security and credit card numbers.
- Don’t overshare on social media sites: Don’t overshare personal information on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. For example, refrain from posting vacation pictures until you get back in town, and limit the information you make accessible to strangers. Cyber-criminals can use data they find online to accurately answer security questions and gain access to your accounts.
- Don’t use public WiFi networks: Using public WiFi networks in cafes or libraries puts your identity at risk because hackers can easily set up fraudulent networks that follow your key-strokes as you access online banking accounts or type in credit card numbers. If you do use public WiFi, just make sure you don’t access sensitive information while online. Only input personal data when you see the “s” at the end of the “https” URL. This stands for “secure” and it means your information will be encrypted.
- Utilize unique passwords: One of the most common security mistakes people make is using one password for all of their accounts. This is dangerous, because if hackers gain access to one account they will then have full control of all your online records. Instead, use a unique password for each account and make sure your passwords are long, complicated, contain numbers and symbols and are scrambled so as not to contain actual words. If you have trouble keeping these difficult passwords straight, you might consider downloading password management software, which will keep your information secure yet accessible.
- Wipe your devices before getting rid of them: Make sure to completely wipe your hard-drive of data before making the switch. For instance, use a wipe utility program to overwrite your laptop with nonsense code before you give it away or dispose of it. This way criminals won’t be able to gain access to the personal information saved on your machine. Do the same with smartphones and tablets, because these can contain just as much valuable data.
Don’t sit back and wait for an identity theft to happen. Instead, be proactive and keep your defenses strong.