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10 Tips for Protecting Your Identity Online

Did you know that Americans spend more than 10 hours a day staring at screens? While the majority of that time is spent watching TV, a large portion is spent on the internet, putting people at risk for online identity theft. Although October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, these tips can help you protect yourself from identity theft year-round.

  1. Don’t reveal too much on social media
    The first step you can take to protect your identity online is to be more careful about what you reveal. Also, know the source of online quizzes and games requesting verification through social media accounts. These could be a ruse to gain access to your personal information.

    Be mindful when updating your status and answering questions, so you don’t reveal information that could be an answer to a security question. Try to avoid sharing facts such as your birthplace, names of your children or pets, or even the middle school you attended.

    Take a moment to review all your social media profiles and ensure that no information is given out that you don’t want to share.
  2. Manage your password or passphrase
    Your login credentials are your first line of defense against cybercriminals. Keep in mind that a long passphrase like “DianeLovedLondon_in16” is stronger than a weak password like “Password1234.” Try to use a different passphrase for each account, and never write down your passphrase or share it with anyone.
  3. Be cautious of public Wi-Fi
    Never access sensitive information, like your bank account or credit card information, on a public Wi-Fi connection.

    Public Wi-Fi is more vulnerable to cyberattacks and hackers looking to steal information. If you need to access sensitive information, do so from a secure personal hotspot or VPN (virtual private network) solution. You can also use your smartphone’s internet in a pinch.
  4. Only access sites with HTTPS
    While browsing the internet, you may stumble upon all sorts of sites looking for information. Use sites with HTTPS certification because this indicates that the site is secure and can be trusted. You can identify security certification by the small green lock in the URL bar of the browser and if the URL has HTTPS at the beginning.
  5. Always update apps
    Security issues are typically fixed through software patches and updates. Download app updates from a trusted source as soon as they become available. Pay particular attention to updates on:
    • Computer operating systems
    • Antivirus software
    • Mobile applications
    • Web browsers
  6. Be wary of suspicious emails
    Phishing emails are designed to scam recipients into clicking something, downloading something or transferring sensitive information. Verify an email is legitimate before doing anything with it because phishing emails often ask you to do something. Typically, you won’t be asked for personal information via email.

    Do not reply or click any links in an email if you notice any of the following:
    • You cannot verify the sender or, when you hover over their email address, it doesn’t match the typical format of a corporate email account.
    • The URL is an unexpected destination when you hover over a link.
    • There are notable grammar and spelling errors.
    • The email appears to be from an employee within a company, but lacks a professional signature.
    • The message has a generic greeting.
  7. Enable ‘remote find’
    Smartphones contain loads of sensitive data that you don't want falling into the wrong hands, which is why you want to be able to locate a missing device as quickly as possible. Most smartphones offer a “remote find” option, which allows you to ping your missing device.
  8. Set up remote wipe
    If you lose your device and it can’t be found quickly, consider clearing its data and returning it to factory settings remotely. Generally, your data is backed up to the cloud for easy retrieval. Some devices offer this security feature by default, but there are also apps available for download.
  9. Use app safety features
    Misplacing a credit card can lead to cyberattacks, too. See if yours has an app available, and check out its safety features. A lot of credit cards offer remote freezing so you can halt any activity with the tap of your screen.
  10. Create a back-up email account
    As an added security measure, have a back-up email account. That way, if you lose access to your account, you have an option to regain access without having to get help from others.

These 10 tips are a great starting point for protecting your identity online. If you’ve been the victim of identity theft, take a look at four habits that may help you improve your credit health.

Kelly Schaefer Hill
By Kelly Schaefer Hill, GM Financial

Soccer mom, corgi enthusiast, virtual learning teacher’s assistant, Kelly Schaefer Hill wears a lot of hats, but one thing she can’t stay away from is data and fun facts. When she’s not writing a post to answer your questions, she’s hanging with her family.


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