As incidents of identity theft continue to rise, consumers need to be more aware than ever as to how to stay safe online. The first thing is to recognize that it can happen to you – it’s not just someone else’s problem. Here are some other tips for staying safe online.
Passwords – Think Again
It can be tricky to think of a password that is easily remembered by you but hard to guess for others. Here’s an idea. Come up with 4 basic passwords that vary a bit so that when you write them down or note them, your notes will just look like “basic 1.” For example, say your first basic password is PASSWORD123. You can note this down as “basic with digits.” Say your other password is PASSWORDxyz.” You would note that as “basic with letters.” Only you know what “basic with digits/letters” means.
Update your passwords regularly, and make them as complex as you can. The above examples are obviously not passwords you’d really use!
Update Your Anti-Virus Software
It’s very important to have the latest anti-virus (AV) software available. There are effective programs that are free, too – when in doubt, ask an IT professional or some other expert as to the best AV software available. Make sure you sign on for automatic updates – this is how the AV software stays ahead of the hackers.
Firewalls Are Vital
Some people don’t realize that a firewall is separate from AV software. A firewall is deliberately designed to protect you from the internet – it’s like a barrier between your computer and the online world. Make sure you have a good one, and make sure you know how to adjust the firewall’s settings to prevent it from blocking things you do want to come through.
Watch Those Emails and Pop-Ups
Remember, your bank and other service providers are not going to ask for your credit card number, Social Security number, or any other personal information over an email. If you are in doubt, call your bank or credit card company and ask if they sent out any emails to their customers. Hackers are good, and they can make a website look legitimate. A good rule of thumb is, never give out any personal information unless you know beyond a doubt that it is legitimate.
When you shop online, it’s a good idea to go with merchants you know and trust, and that your friends have done business with successfully. If you want to buy from a new merchant, look carefully at their website and look at reviews of that merchant online. Look for shipping times, return policies, and warranties.
Banking online is really convenient. But that’s some very sensitive information that’s online! Make sure you read the privacy policies of your financial institution, and keep all records of transactions. Log in frequently and check your balance, and make sure it compares to your records and doesn’t show any suspicious activity.