Prevent Identity Theft by Protecting Your Online Presence
Take steps to keep your digital data secure.
Thieves don’t need to break into your home to rob you. All they need are a few pieces of information, some creativity and access to a little of your online activity.
Identity theft occurs when someone has your information and pretends to be you for their own gain. An identity thief might drain your savings and retirement accounts, make purchases, cash checks, apply for benefits or falsify prescriptions. As a victim, your credit status could be ruined, you might be billed for items you never bought and you could be investigated by police for suspicious activity. Repairing your good name and reputation could be expensive and time consuming.
Be safe online
While the Internet is a great tool for communication and research, it also gives thieves opportunity to grab your personal information, if you’re not careful. Here are some ways to reduce your risk of online identity theft.
- If a company claims to have an account with you and asks for personal information, don’t respond or click on any links in the email.
- Don’t give out personal information unless you’ve initiated the contact or know specifically with whom you’re dealing.
- When you dispose of a computer (or other device such as a smartphone), remove the hard drive/data storage and destroy it.
- Keep passwords private.
- Don’t overshare information on social networking sites.
- Use encryption software that scrambles information you send over the Internet.
- Use anti-virus and anti-spyware software and a firewall. Set your preferences to update these protections often.
- Avoid “phishing” emails, which attempt to dupe you into revealing personal or confidential information. Don’t open files, click on links or download programs sent by strangers. These items could expose your system to a virus or spyware.
- Be careful with Wi-Fi. Before sending personal information over your laptop or smartphone on a public wireless network, verify your information will be protected.
- Lock up your laptop. Only keep financial information on it when absolutely necessary. Don’t use an automatic login feature that saves your user name and password, and always log off when you’re finished. If your laptop is stolen, it will be harder for a thief to get at your personal information.