It is all too often that we hear stories about someone’s identity being stolen online. However, keeping your identity safe online is easy as long as you know how. Here are 10 steps you need to follow to do so.
1. Set strong passwords.
One of the best ways to protect your identity online is to simply have a strong password containing both upper and lower case letters, numbers, and symbols. Try to avoid obvious things like your birth date, favorite pet names, or place of work. The best passwords are a mix of letters, numbers, and symbols that don’t relate to you personally.
2. Use up-to-date security software.
Security software will feature new updates every year. They may seem unnecessary, but these updates are critical for protecting your identity online. Security companies research what is dangerous to their users and find ways to protect you. When new software is released, update it as soon as possible.
3. Request your annual credit score.
By law, you can get up to three free credit reports per year from Experian, Transunion, and Equifax. These annual reports are the best way to spot identity theft. Thankfully, you can get all three reports at once on Annual Credit Report. Make sure to get these reports once a year.
Even so, if you only get your credit report once a year, it could be a year before you discover that your identity has been compromised. No one can prevent all identity theft, but for better protection, enroll in an identity protection service.
4. Closely examine your credit report.
Rather than just noticing the number of your credit score, look closely at what is affecting your score—especially if it’s the first time you’ve ever requested your credit report. Every debt you have should appear on the report and if something looks fishy, investigate it.
5. Be knowledgeable about current scams.
There are new scams that appear constantly, and some are fairly tricky. Protecting your identity online can be as easy as knowing what scams are out there. You can find out about all of the recent scams on On Guard Online, which is run by Homeland Security.
6. Check all social media privacy settings.
By default, our privacy settings are set to share vast amounts of information online. For example, Facebook’s default allows you to be found by any search engine when someone searches your name. Browse the privacy settings for your social media accounts and adjust accordingly.
7. Avoid giving out unnecessary personal information.
You may not think twice when you share your name, birthday, and hometown information on social media. Unfortunately, even this information could potentially be used to steal your identity online. Try to avoid sharing any information at all unless it’s absolutely necessary.
8. Report phishing emails.
The most common type of identity scam is called “phishing.” This technique is when someone sends you official-looking emails that are designed to trick people into sharing things like their credit card number, social security, and other various pieces of information. If you see a message and suspect it may be real, call your bank or whatever organization the email is masquerading as.
9. Watch your bank statements.
Identity theft often results in stolen credit cards and bank accounts where charges occur in places you’ve never been. Furthermore, your account may be drained of money without your authorization. Watching your bank statements and reporting any discrepancy stops theft before it’s too late.
10. Safely dispose of personal information.
When you get rid of a computer or mobile phone, your information may still be on the electronic device. Before you dispose of anything, make sure your identity no longer exists on your phone and computer. Delete everything manually or use software to wipe the hard drive.