In the News…Protecting your Online Identity Part I
We have all heard the stories, from Target to foreign “royals” asking for money, protecting your online identity has become a staple of mainstream news reporting. In the last couple of decades, it is estimated that over 1 billion people have had their online identities compromised. This number will only continue to grow, as more people carry on various social and financial affairs in the vast abyss that is the Internet. Many people think “this will never happen to me”, and they could not be more wrong. Based on the numbers, it is almost a guarantee that if you utilize the Internet in any capacity, your online identity has already been put in the wrong hands. The best thing to do is to learn the facts, and learn what you can do to play an active role in protecting your online identity.
First thing is first, it is vastly important to know the signs of identity theft.
1. Have you received any bills for items or services that you are unable to locate on a credit/debit card statement?
2. Have you received mail indicating a newly opened account that you do not recognize?
3. Do you have a good credit rating, but were recently denied approval on an application?
4. Are you missing any mail or emails?
These just a few, yet, key signs in the early recognition of your online information being misused.
So what can you do to make your information harder for thieves to misuse? While nothing is ever a guarantee of course, there are steps you can take to make it as hard as possible for less than savory individuals to acquire your important information.
Financial experts recommend creating an email that is used strictly for account login. Things such as online banking, Netflix, Amazon, anything you might make payment on- use a secure and little known email address. This will at least keep your information separate, as far as account management and personal emails go, making the “paper trail” a little harder to follow.
A strong password is one of the most important elements to securing your online identity. Always take the time to think of unique passwords that would be generally impossible to guess. Use a secure combination of letters+numbers+random uppercase letters. Many sites now require users to use passwords following similar formulas.
Two other things you can do to heighten your password strength, are to misspell words on purpose, as well as inserting random characters in your chosen password.
-In the case of security questions, never use real information/answers. These answers are stored in various ways, and could be tracked from site to site, thieves know to look for patterns.
-Stop linking accounts! Though it is tempting to link your Facebook to your Twitter to your Instagram, this is never good policy! It guarantees vulnerability due to a plethora of linked information that you have easily provided.
-Only fill out “required information” on sites that require name, email, phone number, etc. If you don’t have to give the info, do not offer it up.
-Look for the “lock symbol” at the top of your browser! This is especially important when entering in any financial information. A lock symbol is not the ultimate guarantee of information safety, but not having one is like wearing a sign saying “please take all my information”.
-Some card companies offer one time use numbers for individual transactions- a great method for protecting your financial information. Contact your card company to see if this is a service they can provide.
– As obvious as it should be, always use a desktop password for your profile, and always lock your computer when you step away from it. This goes for work and home computer use.
The Internet is full of opportunity for your sensitive information to be used, take comfort in knowing you are an active participant in protecting your online identity. By following these initial and basic steps, you can rest assured you are taking the beginning proper precautions in your online information!