How to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft
As the world has shifted to doing more and more online, the problems of identity theft has increased. Today we do not only have to worry about someone going through our mailbox, but scam e-mails, fake websites, hackers, viruses, malware and much more. It can be easy to be wary of giving any information out online.
However, just because identity theft is more prevalent does not mean we need to avoid shopping or banking online forever. By simply being aware of the danger zones for identity theft, and taking a few extra measures to stay safe, we will most likely be able to avoid ever having to deal with identity theft problems.
1. Avoid Public Wi-Fi Networks
Today it is easy to find free public Wi-Fi networks everywhere. It is often tempting to go to cafes to do some studying, focus on a new project at work, or simply do a little online shopping, all while using a public Wi-Fi Network. Unfortunately, public Wi-Fi networks are more vulnerable to dangerous hackers and identity theft. Coffee shops usually give their Wi-Fi passwords to anyone that walks in, and there is no way to know how secure the network is. It is better to assume that, when on a public Wi-Fi network, any personal information has the potential of being exposed.
However, it is unrealistic to avoid public Wi-Fi all the time. If you find yourself needing to frequent cafes and other public Wi-Fi networks, you may want to look into using a virtual private network, or VPN. A VPN will encrypt any information you are sending or receiving so that all of your important and private data stay secure and in the right hands.
2. Always Use Strong Passwords
Creating quality strong passwords is simple, but something not to be taken lightly when it comes to identity theft protection. First off, you will want to avoid using passwords associated with your name, or that contain simple number combinations like 1212. A strong password will use a unique combination of letters, numbers and characters.
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Aside from creating strong passwords, it is also important to vary your passwords for each account. This is where many people have a hard time. It is easy to create a unique password, but remembering them all is a whole other story. Thankfully there are services out there now that are created to help you create and manage your passwords. LastPass, Dashlane, and KeePass are all popular password management services that not only help make your life a little easier, but also protect you from identity theft.
3. Be Sure to Check your Bank and Credit Accounts Frequently
While many banks are constantly looking for fraudulent charges, you are the person who knows best what you are and what you are NOT spending money on. Constantly checking your bank and credit card accounts can save you from a large amount of identity theft. A thief will test the waters and try a few small charges on someone’s account before making any big purchases. People often make the mistake of looking over small fraudulent charges, thinking that it’s not worth the hassle of calling their bank. However, this is the time you want to call your bank, as this could potentially be a sign of bigger identity theft problems to come.
4. Be careful who you give personal information to
We live in a world where we are constantly being asked to give out our information. Websites ask us for our e-mail, address, phone number, birthday, credit card number, and even sometimes our social security number. While there are a lot of legitimate and trustworthy websites out there that have our best interest in mind, it is still important to be weary of giving out our personal information, even to the supposedly trustworthy sites.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of bad apples out there, doing whatever it takes to steal your identity. Hackers and thieves will do everything from hacking sites with a lack of security, to creating scams that help them obtain your personal information. If a site asks for any information do some research before simply giving anything away, and use alternative payment options like PayPal when you can. Last, but not least, use your best judgment. Scammers are becoming more and more convincing. If anything seems even remotely fishy, then hold off on giving out your information.
5. Keep your Software Updated
Simply having anti-malware and anti-virus software is great, but if you are not keeping your software updated it can be pointless. Identity thieves and hackers are constantly finding new ways to access your information through viruses and malware. Anti-virus and anti-malware software is constantly changing to keep up with the ever changing world of cyber-attacks. By keeping this software updated, you are ensuring that your information will stay safe.
However, anti-virus and anti-malware software is not the only software that should be updated frequently. Any software you use on your phone, for a website, or an online business should also be kept updated. Not keeping other important software updated can leave you open to the dangers of hackers and cyber-attacks as well.
Hopefully you have found these tips helpful, and feel better prepared when it comes to avoiding identity theft. While all of these tips are important, the world of identity theft is constantly changing and evolving. It is important to also trust your own judgment, and to be wary of giving out your information to anyone. If something seems not quite right, then hold off on giving out your information. It is worth it in the end.
Have you ever had an experience with identity theft? What measures do you take to avoid identity theft?
This guest post was contributed by Cassie on behalf of Secure Thoughts, one of the best possible online sources for information regarding internet security.