How to Protect Your Online Identity
Today, the Internet is playing a bigger role in our lives than it was just a decade ago. This means helping to protect our online identity may be more important than ever. But with potential threats from identity thieves and hackers coming at us from all angles, and even kids being targeted, what can be done to help prevent such cases from occurring? Here are some things to consider:
Help Protect Your Social Security Number
You may want to consider doing a few things to help safeguard your Social Security number from potential identity thieves. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), it’s a good idea to leave your Social Security card at home and in a secure place. You may want to also ask more questions on why a Social Security number is needed before sharing it.
Safely Use Email and Social Media
Social media sites may serve as entry points for identity thieves. The FTC advises to never overshare on social media. Make sure your profiles do not list your full name, birthday or other important account numbers. As a general rule, the less information about you that’s publicly available online, the safer your identity may be.
How often do you change your email password? How many times do you reuse the same password on multiple sites? Do your passwords contain upper and lower case letters, symbols, numbers, or, preferably, a combination of all four? While these things may seem like a hassle, they are important. Hackers may run programs to help guess your password, often gaining access to personal information like your address, birthday or credit card numbers, says the California Attorney General’s Office. Changing your passwords regularly and making them hard to guess may help deter those hackers.
Consider Protecting Your Apps
Even the apps on your smartphone may be a potential opportunity for hackers. The apps may appear innocuous, even gaining fake rave reviews in the app store. But once you’ve downloaded the app, it may infect your phone with malware. Some signs of malware may include texts or emails that are sent out which you didn’t write or finding additional mysterious apps on your phone that you did not download, says the FTC.
Thankfully, a number of antivirus apps may help counter the problem, offering protection against malware, the FTC adds. But the best way to help protect your smartphone is to stick to well-established apps from reputable companies.
Taking a few of these steps may help safeguard your online identity today and in the future.
Originally published on May 17, 2012.