No protection against identity theft is 100% foolproof, but there are ways to shore up your online defenses against thieves. The first step to protecting yourself? Knowing that identity theft can affect anyone. So if you think nobody's interested in your data, think again.
The second step is to use common sense. Never post information on a site that doesn’t offer an encrypted safety feature, and always check what you want to say before you post it (just in case someone could use it to steal your data later).
Here are some other suggestions from Kendall Auto Alaska that you should consider putting into practice:
Keep your security software updated
Just like their biological brethren, digital viruses are always evolving, and hackers write new ones every day. Your computer might be able to protect against the ones it already knows about, but new or upgraded viruses might waltz right on past your firewalls. That's why your computer should have up-to-date spam filters, a secure firewall, anti-virus and anti-spyware programs installed.
There are a number of trustworthy online options for free, or you can buy a security package. Many programs can be set to perform security checks automatically once or twice each week. And don’t forget to respond to notices about updating your system—ignoring them can lead to costly consequences.
Understand privacy policies
Use only secure online shopping sites
Never assume that the website where you found the perfect toy for your pet is secured for your safety. You’ll know if it is by looking at the URL address box for an “s” in https:// and a “lock” symbol in the lower-right hand corner on the payment page. When in doubt, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) “recommends right-clicking anywhere on the page and select 'Properties.' This will let you see the real URL (website address), and the dialog box will reveal if the site is not encrypted.”
Reputable sites also display the BBB seal of approval or other seals from well-known endorsement sources. Click on the seals to confirm authenticity.
Also, pay attention to password strength suggestions offered by reputable websites. You want to keep your passwords varied and as complicated as possible to foil online identity theft.
Use credit cards for online payments
Kendall Auto Alaska recommends that you use credit cards for online payments on well-secured sites. Why? Because, under federal law, you can dispute any charge on your credit card if you don’t receive the purchased item or if there is any issue about returning the item. Shoppers have rights when it comes to disputing unauthorized charges and no liability when a credit card is stolen.
That good news doesn’t mean that you should ignore monthly credit card statements. Always scrutinize the charges for any unauthorized activity. If you establish an online account with password strength, you can check charges sooner rather than waiting for a mailed paper copy.
Watch out when using wireless connections
Whether you’re at Starbucks or at home on a wireless WiFi connection, your personal data, including your passwords, might be flying around “out there” and can be picked off by criminals that are eavesdropping experts. If you're out and about, Kendall Auto Alaska recommends not entering any passwords you wouldn't mind sharing with thieves, whether they log you into your social medias pages or your bank accounts. If you're at home, ensure that you change the standard password that came with your WiFi network. Otherwise, you're leaving it open to anyone with Google. (Which, nowadays, is pretty much everyone.)
Cyberspace is an excellent word for the unchartered universe you encounter when online. These suggestions for how to protect your online identity will help you explore safely. If you ever experience identity theft, you don’t want it to be because you didn't use common sense.