5 Ways You Can Protect Yourself From Online Identity Theft

Lisa MichaelsMarketing Consultant
With the rising number of cyber attacks in recent years, keeping your personal data safe has become more important than ever. The tips outlined in this article will help you keep your identitfy safe.

Identity theft can involve stealing a wide range of personal data, such as user names and passwords you use on various websites, credit card numbers, social security numbers, banking information and more. Criminals can use this stolen information to impersonate you and commit a variety of crimes.

Even though identity theft has existed in various forms for the past several decades, widespread use of the Internet has made it a lot easier for criminals to get a victim's personal information and use it in a fraudulent way.

Recovering from identity theft can be a long and expensive process, which is why it is better to prevent it from happening to you in the first place. There are many different ways your identity can be stolen and it’s important to know how to protect yourself.

Protect Yourself From Online Threats

One of the best ways to protect yourself from online threats is to use strong security software. There are many high-quality security programs available for both desktop and mobile platforms which have anti-virus, anti-spyware and firewall functions. These programs can also detect and block known phishing and scam sites right in your browser.

You should ensure that your security software, web browser, any online applications you use, as well as your PC's operating system are updated on a regular basis. Keeping your software up-to-date is very important, as developers often release updates and patches to counter security vulnerabilities they have discovered.

Manage Your Passwords Well

A lot of identity thefts occur when a criminal simply guesses a victim's password to an online service such as a web-based email account or an online banking service. For this reason, you should ensure that you use strong and secure passwords on every website. Ideally, your password should be at least ten characters long, plus include a mixture of upper and lower case characters, numbers and symbols.

You should also never use the same password on multiple websites. If a website is compromised and passwords are publicly leaked, or if one of your passwords is somehow intercepted as you log in to a specific website, using the same password everywhere will make it very easy for an attacker to compromise your other online accounts.

Recognize Phishing Scams

Phishing is an online scam in which a criminal sets up a website that looks very similar to that of a genuine organization, like a bank or online payment processor. The objective of phishing is to steal login credentials to help commit identity theft. Phishing links are often distributed by email, but can also be sent by SMS or via social media messages.

It’s important to learn to recognize phishing messages to stay safe from this scam. Check the URL that a message links to in order to determine whether it's the same one you usually access to sign in to your account at the online service in question. If you have doubts as to whether a message is legitimate, call the company or visit their website to ask them.

Use Only Secure Connections

While public Wi-Fi connections are now very popular and convenient, they do come with their share of security risks. Any information that is sent over a public Wi-Fi connection can be intercepted by another user in a man-in-the-middle (MITM) attack, as it's sent unencrypted.

However, some people need to use public Wi-Fi networks in order to stay in touch with friends and family, as well as conduct business while on the road. If you have to use unsecured public Wi-Fi networks to access the Internet on the go, you should sign up for a VPN service that will encrypt all of your communications and keep them safe from prying eyes.

Also, avoid using public computers, such as those located in Internet cafes, to make online purchases or to log in to your online banking. You never know if a public PC is infected with malware that could enable criminals to steal your personal information.

Don’t Over Share on Social Media

Social media websites are often used by identity thieves to look for potential victims or to find out any information they may be missing about a victim in order to successfully impersonate them. Information such as your full name, phone number, address and date of birth can be used to commit identity theft. Be careful what you share with the public on social media websites and remember that your personal details can fall into the hands of malicious individuals if you're not careful.

Final Thoughts

Identity theft is a crime that has become a lot more popular lately, as increased use of the Internet has made it a lot easier for criminals to find personal information about others that they can then exploit to commit other crimes. Recovering from identity theft once you've become a victim of it can be a tedious and expensive process. The good news is that there are several easy ways for you to protect yourself and keep from falling victim to this type of crime as explained by this article, especially when using the Internet.

Lisa MichaelsMarketing Consultant

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