Protecting Your Identity Online

Chances are, you handle a lot of the business of real life in the digital world. In a single day, you might connect with friends and coworkers, order groceries to your doorstep, pay bills, file health insurance claims, and view the funds in your retirement account all on the internet. While handling these items digitally offers massive convenience, it also brings significant responsibility. Protecting your identity online is an increasingly important consideration. Keep reading to learn more about how to avoid identity theft online.

Wireless Networks

  • Exercise caution when using unprotected wireless networks. Don’t use networks whose administrator you don’t know or trust.
  • At home, ensure your router has been set up with appropriate security settings. Among other things, this includes resetting the default admin password, disabling remote management, and even placing the router toward the center of your home to prevent an unauthorized user from having adequate physical proximity to query your network.
  • Power your computer down, or disconnect from the internet, when not in use. This limits your chances of getting hacked.

Desktops and Laptops

  • Install a firewall, which will block unauthorized access to your computer, as well as anti-virus software to detect and eliminate viruses.  Update these often along with your operating system.
  • Verify the source and content of downloads before initiating.
  • Cover your camera with tape to prevent hackers from taking pictures of you and using these for blackmail.
  • Regularly backup your data on an external hard drive. If you find your machine has been compromised, you’ll have to wipe it, which means you could permanently lose all of your important documents and photos.

Mobile Devices

  • Use a passcode and fingerprint identification if possible.
  • Install anti-virus software on your phone and keep it up to date.
  • Choose apps with a high number of good reviews to guard against scam apps created by criminals to gain access to your smartphone’s system.
  • Review what data the app will have access to and weigh your exposure against the benefits of using the app.
  • Turn off geolocation and GPS when not in use.

Passwords

  • Create strong passwords. This entails using at least eight characters (including letters, numbers, and special characters) and avoiding names, slang, or words found in the dictionary.
  • If you have trouble remembering your multiple complex passwords, consider a password manager, which enables you to log into multiple sites with a single password. Though password managers can also get hacked, some experts argue they’re still more reliable than a DIY password management strategy.
  • Change your passwords often, and don’t use the same password across multiple sites.
  • Don’t store passwords in a single place, whether digital or physical, and don’t share them.

Email

  • Limit your presence on unnecessary email lists.
  • Be wary of emails from senders you don’t recognize. If they present an offer that sounds too good to be true in exchange for your information, it may be a phishing scam. Don’t download attachments unless you trust them.
  • Set up online financial accounts with a separate email address. Should your personal email get stolen in a data breach, this will block hackers from using “Forgot My Password” to change your financial account passwords and access your data.

Social Networks

  • Sign up for new social networks with the least information required.
  • Use the maximum account privacy settings and read the privacy statement to get at least a baseline understanding of where and how your data may be used.
  • Don’t accept invitations from users you don’t know.
  • Consider which personal identifiers you post. Your email, address, phone number, and birth date can all help a criminal piece together more sensitive data, such as Social Security and account numbers.
  • Use restraint when posting photos. Remember that once you’ve posted something, you can never completely delete it.
  • Disable geolocation before taking photos so that posted pics don’t get embedded with time and date stamps along with GPS coordinates. This helps block others from tracking your movements.

Shopping

  • Only make purchases through secure, authenticated domains. To check for this, look in the address bar for a url beginning with “https…”
  • Check a merchant’s privacy policy to learn whether they will share your information with third-party marketers.
  • Use a credit card rather than a debit card. Under the federal Fair Credit Billing Act, you can dispute bad charges on a credit card.
  • When completing a transaction, enter only the bare minimum of necessary information.
  • Hold onto purchase confirmation emails and numbers at least until the return window has closed.

When all else fails, use a common sense sniff test for better online identity theft protection. If something sounds too good to be true or seems generally fishy, it probably is.

Disclaimer: The information posted to this site was accurate at the time it was initially published. We do not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the information provided. The information contained in is provided for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal or financial advice. You should consult your own attorney or financial adviser regarding your particular situation.