4 ways to protect your identity
In this article
- Why safeguarding your personal information is crucial for protecting your privacy online
- Learn our four most important tips to protect yourself online
- Lastly, be aware of data breaches & your online accounts
Protect yourself against identity theft by securing Wi-Fi, avoiding public networks for personal data, using strong passwords and employing online banking safety measures.
Identity theft is a growing concern for many people. According to a recent report 5.7 million cases of fraud and identity theft were reported to the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) in the last year.1 While lawmakers are currently working to enact stricter security reform measures, safety is never guaranteed when it comes to your personal information.
Luckily, consumers can take measures to help safeguard their personal information, especially when it comes to online banking and shopping transactions. Here are a few easy steps you can follow to protect your privacy and make it more difficult for cyber criminals to steal your identity.
1. Check Your Wi-Fi
Most Americans have a wireless network in their home. Unfortunately, anyone can use your Wi-Fi network if it isn’t properly secured with password protection and data encryption.
Sometimes, it’s just a neighbor piggybacking onto your network. In other cases, cyber criminals may “war drive” your neighborhood by driving through residential neighborhoods looking for open networks to conduct illegal activity on. To protect your Wi-Fi network, the FTC recommends turning on your router’s data encryption feature, limiting access, and regularly changing your router’s name and password.
2. Avoid public networks
It can be tempting to use the free Wi-Fi service at a public library, coffee shop or restaurant. Unfortunately, public networks like these offer a perfect backdoor for identity theft, so it’s better to better to be safe than sorry and not assume these networks are safe.
If you have to use a public Wi-Fi network for work or private tasks, try to avoid sending or receiving personal information. This can include address, phone numbers, bank statements, account numbers, social security number and credit card information.
Even if you're accessing work remotely though a VPN (virtual private network), even with two-factor authentication you should still avoid logging into your personal online accounts unless absolutely necessary. If you must make personal transactions, especially on mobile devices, be sure to log out of any password-protected sites once you are done. Also, only log onto or send information to encrypted sites.
3. Don’t take the bait
Phishing attacks typically involve receiving fraudulent emails from someone claiming to be a reputable source. These emails often attempt to solicit personal information that an identity thief values, such as bank account or credit card numbers.
If you receive a message to your email address from a source you don’t recognize, do not open it. Immediately delete the email and report it as spam. On the flip side, if you receive an email that looks to be from a reputable source, such as your bank or cell phone service provider, you should still proceed with caution. Examine the email while reading through to look for any red flags that may be indicative of a phishing attempt, such as misspellings or grammatical errors and be suspicious of urgent requests that require you to take action. If you notice anything concerning, remember to never click on any links within the email, do not respond to the sender and delete the email and immediately report your suspicion to the actual business or service provider.
4. Get creative with your passwords
The best passwords include a variety of characters, numbers and symbols, which is why many sites now require a complex password. Choose a unique password for every protected site you visit and make it as random as possible (no birthdates or children’s names).
Have trouble keeping track of a zillion different passwords? Sign up for a password management system such as Keeper or Dashlane. While they’re not foolproof, these sites will help you keep track of each password you use and give you an indication of how strong your passwords are. Also make sure to change your password in the event of a data breach at any service or site you've used.
Banking in the cloud
In the digital age, protecting your personal information online is crucial. Why? These days, more people prefer to do their banking online via a computer or mobile device than at a brick-and-mortar branch location.
With this type of volume of online banking, breaches can be a risk. And if you’re the victim of unauthorized online access to your financial accounts, it can be a pain to clean up the mess. Fortunately, you don’t have to give up the convenience of online banking and shopping to protect your sensitive financial and personal data.
Cybercriminals are looking for the easiest way in. So, while you can’t prevent every attack, it is important to make things as difficult as possible for hackers and identity thieves. By taking personal measures such as the ones we’ve discussed here, you can help safeguard your private information and reduce the likelihood of identity theft. After all, there’s only one you — and you want to keep it that way!
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