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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 all 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 vigilant about what you reveal. Also, be sure to 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 – try using passphrases

    Your log-in credentials are your first line of defense against cyber criminals. 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

    You may have seen the notice pop up on your phone that public Wi-Fi is not secure. 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 cyber attacks and hackers looking to steal information. If you need to access sensitive information, do so from a secured personal hotspot or VPN (virtual private network) solution.

  4. Check for HTTPS before entering websites

    While browsing the internet, you may stumble upon all sorts of sites in pursuit of information. Use sites with HTTPS certification because they indicate that the site is secure and can be trusted. You can identify HTTPS certification by the small green lock in the URL bar of the browser and HTTPS at the beginning of the URL.

  5. Always update

    Security issues are typically fixed through software patches and updates. Download app updates as soon as they become available. Pay particular attention to updates on:

    • Computer operating systems
    • Anti-virus
    • 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. Phishing emails ask you to do something, so verify it is a legitimate email before doing anything. You should never be asked to send personal information over email.

    If you notice any of the following in an email you receive, do not reply or click any links in the email.

    • The email was unexpected or from an unknown source.
    • 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.
    • When you hover over a link, the URL is an unexpected destination.
    • 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 are contributing heavily to an ever-growing stack of sensitive data that you don’t want to fall into the wrong hands, so being able to find a missing device quickly is imperative. Most smartphones offer a remote find option, which allows you to ping your missing device.

  8. Set up remote wipe

    If your missing device can’t be found in a short amount of time, consider remotely wiping it and returning it to factory settings. 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.


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

Kelly Schaefer Hill
By Kelly Schaefer Hill, GM Financial

GM Financial’s Kelly Schaefer Hill is a seasoned road warrior with a history of long road trips and early morning drives. When she’s not belting out an alternative rendition of “The Wheels on the Bus” to her daughters, she's digging into digital marketing data.


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