Identity theft has the power to leave corporations, businesses, and even individuals feeling helpless, frustrated, and confused. It can range from a minor annoyance and a long day on the phone with the credit card company for some, to complete devastation and losses in the hundreds of thousands for others. Identity theft is the impersonation of your online identity by means of stolen passwords, banking information, or identification. They may use information about you to open up loans or make large purchases in your name, leaving you with the bill. Whether you are an individual or a business, some measures can be taken to protect yourself while navigating the internet to avoid identity theft online.
Information is power. You can avoid identity theft online by educating yourself as much as possible about the tactics used by thieves and scammers. Learn how to spot phishing scammers who try to persuade you to divulge sensitive information. They can be very convincing but never share valuable information such as passwords, security numbers, important dates, or banking information to unsecured sources online. Trustworthy companies will not email you to ask for this information. It’s also important to educate yourself on the companies with whom you make purchases online. Make sure they are a reputable, trustworthy, and secure business before inputting your credit card information into their system.
Protecting your identity online is one of the best defences against online identity theft. Use high-quality security software on your computer and mobile device to protect your information from malware attacks. Don’t underestimate the power of a strong password. Use strong passwords with special characters, numbers, and in different cases. When selecting a password, don’t use easily available information such as your pet’s name, birth date, maiden name, or hometown; these are passwords that a quick Google search will reveal about you. If the option is available, take advantage of multi-factor identification, which will alert you if someone is trying to access your account. You also want to avoid using identical passwords over multiple platforms and devices. Once the identity thieves gain access to one, they will immediately take that password and attempt to access anything else that they can. This is also why it’s also important to change your passwords on a regular basis. It’s also good practice to continue to shred any physical paper and secure important documents in your home. Thieves can use this information as a starting port to access your online identity.
Staying vigilant will also help you avoid online identity theft. Monitoring your credit score regularly is a great starting point. Keep a watchful eye out for any suspicious activity such as large purchases you don’t recognize, new credit cards being opened, or large loans you did not apply for yourself. The sooner you catch the suspicious activity, the quicker you can take action to minimize damage. For this reason, it’s also a good idea to monitor your online banking, as you can get very up-to-date information on your account activity as well. Staying vigilant also includes logging out of accounts when you’re finished using a particular device or service. Don’t have your passwords saved to desktops or cellphones or remain logged in. Identity thieves will take full advantage of this simple convenience. And lastly, stay vigilant and avoid oversharing on social media. On a daily basis, you might be offering valuable information to those looking to steal your identity, such as your location, date of birth, license plates, or potential password clues. Remove the opportunity for them to access this information by being more selective about what you post online.
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