Remember when identity theft meant a stolen wallet or purse?
Of course it still can, however, living in the internet age means that your personal information can be compromised in so many more different ways. In fact, according to the 2016 Norton Cybersecurity Insights Report, “Consumers around the world believe they are nearly twice more likely to have their credit card information stolen online than from their wallets.” Further, “four in five worry about being an online crime victim.”
So with cyber identity theft being such a great perceived risk, what can you do to help safeguard your personal information online? Here are some recommendations:
- Change any passwords you may have frequently and avoid any passwords which may be easily compromised. Ensure that your passwords cannot be easily hacked by avoiding the use of data such as your mother’s maiden name, your birth date, your phone number, or other findable information. Websites will also often give guidance regarding the relative strength of passwords. Make your passwords harder to guess, as permissible, by using:
- A password manager.
- An increased number of characters.
- A mixture of upper and lower case letters.
- Special characters (e.g., !@#$%^&*).
- Use anti-virus software on all of your electronic devices as available. Your home computer should be properly firewalled and kept up-to-date with regular operating system and security patch updates.
- Do not open or respond to emails from senders that you do not recognize.
- Do not click on attachments or internet links that are suspicious.
- Do not send confidential information through email.
- Be wary of internet sites that seek to collect too much personal information for no apparent reason. Ensure you are dealing with the official site of a trusted company.
- Backup your files to a hard drive not connected to the internet. With the trend towards cyber criminals holding your data for ransom, it is a prudent step.
- Encrypt your sensitive information.
- Do not use your credit card online unless the merchant uses a secure transaction system. Look for a web address that starts with “https” and not just “http.”
- Regularly monitor your bank, credit, and other financial accounts for any unusual activity and report anything out of the ordinary right away.
Remaining vigilant about your personal information online is the first step towards thwarting identity theft. Read more about identity theft.