If you have experienced identity theft online or know someone who has, you will know the experience can be distressing, to say the least. With the stolen information, hackers and cybercriminals can create accounts by impersonating you for a number of reasons. Even though identity theft has been going on for some time offline, the amount of personal information available online is tempting enough for any wannabe identity thief to misuse from the comfort of their home.
Seeing how unsafe the internet really is, it is your responsibility to stay protected while using the internet at all times. The only foolproof way of doing so is to avoid using the internet at all, but that would be unrealistic, seeing how the internet is more of a necessity than a luxury these days. Keeping this in mind, if you spend a great deal of time online, then make sure you utilize the following 5 tips to stay safe and secure from identity theft for good.
Stay Clear of Phishing Websites
Phishing websites are those that look as though they are legitimate websites, but in reality they are looking to get their hands on your information. They may be hunting for information like usernames and passwords but could also look for information like your social security number, address, name, and other personal information. If a site asks for the following information or something similar, be vigilant:
- Credit card number
- Phone number
- Health insurance information or ID
- Bank account number
Even if the request for information is legit, like while applying for a credit card, but if it was unwanted then it should raise quite a few red flags. If you are not sure about a company or website, find out more about it online. Check out the company’s website and call them if required. By doing your homework beforehand, you reduce the chances of falling prey to phishing websites by leaps and bounds.
Create Unique Passwords for Different Websites
A lot of people make the terrible mistake of using the same passwords across different accounts. Not only is this a bad idea, but it invites trouble.
Think of it this way, if a hacker or cybercriminal hacks your email account or any other account for that matter, chances are they will use the same credentials to access all of your accounts. If you have used the same credentials time and time again, it will be a breeze for hackers and cybercriminals to access your other accounts as well.
It is really important for you to maintain password security across all of your accounts. Create strong and secure passwords, and maintain them in an encrypted spreadsheet or online platforms like LastPass to assist you in remembering them when the need arises.
Don’t Give out Too Much Information on Social Media
There is no denying the fact social media is great, and even though everyone uses it, you should avoid giving out too much information to the general public. As fun as it may be to share what you are doing and where you are headed, you are making yourself a target for identity theft.
Information you think is harmless could quite possibly be used against you. Think twice about what you post online, as more hackers and cybercriminals know about you, the easier it will be to compromise your accounts.
Protect your Wireless Network
There are a couple of reasons why you should protect your wireless network and one of the primary ones is to reduce identity theft and fraud. By leaving your wireless network open, without encryption or password, hackers and cybercriminals can use it without your knowledge. Additionally, they can also keep track of what you do online. This allows them to build a detailed profile about you and your family based on the sites you visit.
Even though some information may be encrypted, like your credit card information, many sites do not encrypt the information you submit. Believe it or not, the website names alone can give hackers all the information they need about you. To save yourself from this dilemma, add a password to your network immediately.
Use Anti-Malware/Anti-Virus Programs
Nefarious programs like keyloggers and backdoors make it easy to enter your system. They can be installed in a number of ways too. The only way you can be certain to protect yourself against them is by installing both an anti-malware and anti-virus program. Thankfully, data security services these days offer solutions that come with both. Just keep in mind whatever solution you opt for, it is the best there is.
Of course, there are plenty of other ways you can go about bolstering your security online to defeat online theft. Other solutions include and are not limited to:
- Downloading software and apps from reputable sources alone
- Monitoring your credit profile
- Shopping at reputable sites
- Using OpenDNS to stay clear of websites marked as being dangerous
The good news is there are plenty of ways you can go about protecting yourself from identity theft online, but you will need to be precise about which ones you should adopt because not all of them are going to be effective.
You may need to do a bit of research online, but it will come in incredibly handy considering the fact it will make you aware of the various risks online. Remember, awareness is just as important as using the right tools and tips.
The only way you can protect yourself better is by knowing what you are dealing with. Once you know what that is, you will automatically know how to deal with different situations tactfully. For instance, if you do not want your internet traffic to be monitored, not even by your own ISP, then you will know that the only way of making this possible is by using a VPN. With a VPN, you can anonymize yourself by masking your original IP address by providing a new one. This way, not even your own ISP will know what you do online.