Millions of Americans fall victim to identity theft, and with the exponential growth in technology it is becoming more difficult to protect oneself. Hackers constantly discover new ways to corrupt and infiltrate a system. Personal information should never be jeopardized by chance, thus several steps must be taken to prevent theft of online records. Here are five steps for protecting your personal information that you can take now.
1. Always Verify Legitimacy
When giving out personal information (driver's license, birth date, address, Social Security), always be skeptical. Do not provide the requested data without verifying the legitimacy of a business or person via research. After browsing the web, one of the first steps should be to block cookies on the internet settings. While surfing the internet, thousands of data points are collected by the websites. These “searches” become statistics for different companies around the world. By blocking cookies, internet users gain a sense of anonymity.
2. Use Different Usernames and Passwords
Always keep usernames and passwords separate for online banking, social networks, e-mail, and shopping. If a perpetrator discovers one account then he or she has access to all of them. Having a unique password is sometimes not enough these days as hackers develop complex algorithms to solve a password. Use a unique combination of numbers, letters, and symbols for all passwords. Stay away from birthdays, family members, and pet names. Keep a pen-written log of all usernames and passwords so they are not forgotten. Remember to log out of websites that require an identification and password. In addition, close all old accounts that are no longer utilized. Many people made the transition to Facebook without ever using MySpace again. It is unwise to have a personal page floating around the internet without supervision.
3. Keep Software Updated
In order to prevent an infiltration of the computer's system always keep an updated anti-virus or anti-malware software. Regularly scan the computer to search for any malignant files. Always be weary of pop-up ads and random email promotions. Promptly delete all suspicious emails without opening them, and be careful of opening attachments from third-party sources. These usually open the floodgates to viruses or trojans. Sometimes these dangerous files are hidden, so while it appears that the file is deleted, they are actually still causing damage. Once a virus enters the computer it can weaken the firewall allowing hackers to gain access to valuable information. Always look for multiple solutions. On YouTube there are several detailed tutorials for how to delete viruses or unwanted files. If all else fails, send the computer to a well respected company that can professionally remove all hazardous elements inside the computer and install the best firewall.
4. Online Shop Cautiously
Obviously be cautious when doing online shopping with unfamiliar business retailers. Many unsuspecting customers have personal information stolen from them because of online scams. Be on the lookout for stores that have the “Better Business Bureau Online” seal of approval. Most respectable businesses offer package tracking services as well as insurance to make sure merchandise is delivered properly. If ever concerned about buying a particular product, call the customer service and speak to a company supervisor.
5. Beware of Checking-In on Smartphones
Smart phones are incredible tools for tracking with GPS services. One must always be careful of tagging locations. Be mindful about using services that can use a “I just checked in at XYZ” feature. All a criminal needs to know is that their victim is on vacation a thousand miles away. When not in use, turn off all GPS features on the phone or computer.
By following these tips, your information should stay safe. However, if you ever find your personal information compromised, do not hesitate to contact an attorney to defend your rights. Online scams and identity theft are serious crimes, that no one should ever fall victim to.
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