While you may think of theft and robbery as something that puts your physical possessions at risk, it is also something that can happen to all of the personal information you use online. Identity theft is a serious problem in the world of online transactions and computer storage, and an issue people need to take a hard look at. Without proper steps in place to prevent identity theft, it could very well rear its ugly head in your life. By following a few smart and responsible guidelines, you can take proactive steps to better protect your personal information in the future.
5 Steps to Preventing Identity Theft
- Be Smart with Your Information – The single best piece of advice is to be smart with what information you choose to divulge online. While there are certain factors you cannot control on the internet, this is one you can control. Never give out your social security number online! If someone is asking for it, be wary. It is also not a good idea to constantly update people with where you are at all times. While social media platforms like Twitter and Foursquare are great, they can also make you an easy target if used to talk about what banks you use, where you work, vacations, etc.
- Use Protection Software – Just like you should never go to a construction site without a hardhat, you should never be internet active without some form of anti-virus or anti-malware software on your computer. Without these protection softwares, you are more susceptible to hackers finding any entry point into your system. Take advantage of some of these free anti-virus programs available to the public.
- Monitor Your Financial Information – If you aren’t on top of your financial information, how will you know when you have been compromised? Regularly check things like bank statements, bill cycles, and credit reports. It is also a good idea to coordinate bill payments whenever possible. This allows you a regular timeframe where you expect payments to be withdrawn from accounts and lets you monitor when something is out of the ordinary.
- Protect Your Passwords – Learn to protect passwords the same as any other important possession. Once a password has been compromised, an internet hacker can access all of the sensitive information connected to that account. A good rule of thumb is to never use a standard password for all websites. Change passwords and write them down in a place where they cannot be easily found by others. It is also advisable to use passwords that will not be easily guessed (zip code, birth date, phone number, spouse’s name, etc.).
- Don’t Store Sensitive Information — The fifth tip is to avoid storing sensitive information on your computer. If your computer is ever compromised, you don’t want credit card information, SSN, or other personal information easily available.
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