In a digital age when everyone is constantly on the internet, protecting yourself when you are online is vital to your overall safety and success. Hackers are always on the lookout for vulnerable people and profiles from which to steal account information. Many people are not aware of how serious online identity theft can be, so here are five simple ways to protect yourself from malicious identity theft over the internet.
1. Layered Security
Nowadays, most websites require, or at least strongly encourage, you to make an account on the site. This basic level of security, usually just including a username and password, is generally very effective at protecting your information. However, larger websites that track more information, such as Google and Facebook, often recommend that you have several layers of protection around your account which can include a phone number or a security question. This type of security is commonly known as multi-factor authentication software, and more businesses than ever are making use of it to create a company with a safer online presence.
2. Varied Passwords
For websites that only require a simple username and password to access your account, make sure that you are practicing proper password techniques. Many websites have requirements that require your password to contain a certain number of characters, special characters, or numbers to be accepted. The more complex and difficult to guess your password is, the better. You should also use different passwords for every account you create. That way, if someone else gets ahold of one of your passwords they cannot log in to multiple accounts. Keep your list of passwords in a safe, non-computerized location that only you can access.
3. Social Media Privacy
Many social media platforms have account visibility options that allow you to control how much of your account typical users can see. These options range from hiding everything but your name and profile picture to allowing full visibility on all of your posts. The average person, especially those under the age of eighteen, is best served to have some level of privacy on his or her social media accounts. Having all of your information available publicly can tell those with malicious intent where you live, which people are closest to you, and other facts that could make it easier to impersonate or harm you.
4. Antivirus Software
Even the most cautious internet users occasionally come across harmful viruses. Viruses can range from minor annoyances that do nothing more than slowing how fast your computer works to giving hackers full access to all of your data, including credit card information and account passwords. Antivirus software is available in several places around the internet, sometimes for free, other times for hundreds of dollars. Like everything else, you get what you pay for, so the more expensive programs will usually do the best work, while the free options will likely leave much to be desired.
5. Watch for Signs
No matter how careful you are, it is always possible that someone has managed to steal your personal information, so always remember to stay alert and be aware of the common signs of identity theft. Closely monitoring your credit reports, making sure you are getting all of your mail on time, and inquiring about any suspicious activity are a few steps you can take to help protect yourself. If your information has been stolen, you will likely be able to catch it early and prevent much of the potential damage, provided that you stay alert to all of the warning signs.
Many who did not grow up with the internet from a young age are unaware of proper internet safety techniques, so do your best to inform your older relatives and others who may be uninformed about the steps listed here and any other tips you can come up with. It may seem tedious now, but you will be wishing you had followed this advice if you ever have to deal with identity theft.