Online Identity Theft and How to Best Protect Yourself

Online Identity Theft Woman at Computer
Photo Courtesy of Pexels – George Milton

Online identity theft is a growing problem that affects us all. It always amazes me at the new schemes that cyber crooks, devious telemarketers and mail thieves devise to steal our information. In fact, every two seconds someone’s identity has been stolen. Even more shocking is that mostly married women are the most vulnerable targets. Though you hope it never happens to you, the truth is no one is safe despite taking the best efforts. After all, you could have entered your information at a secure site when shopping, applying for a job, going to the hospital or visiting your doctor or dentist just to name a few, only to later learn it was hacked. Therefore, it never hurts to start taking more precautions so here is how to protect yourself from online identity theft and hopefully become safer.

To begin with, reduce tempting targets for those cyberthieves are something to strive for. Credit cards, checks and bank statements that have been lying around only serves to make the stealing of that information easier. Instead, try signing up for automatic deposits to pay bills online can be a safer alternative. Make sure the website for your bank that you are about to go through to pay is a secured website.

Another helpful practice to guard against online identity theft is paying more attention to those banking and credit card accounts and taking advantage of free credit reports. Did you know that you are entitled to get three free credit reports per year from Equifax, TransUnion and Experian? In order to claim those three reports, you only can do it when signing up at Annual Credit Report. However, you also can receive six more at Equifax’s website until 2026.

Besides your personal information and credit card history that includes your score, you can find out if anyone took out a loan in your name or if bankruptcy was ever filed. Strangely enough, not all companies report charges to the credit bureaus.

Armed with this credit history information, you have a chance to fix any mistakes shown in those reports up to a year. Correcting them as soon as possible could save from problems down the road if you’re hoping to buy a home, rent, buy insurance or job hunting.

Something else that is essential to protect yourself from online identity theft is remembering that website appearances can be deceiving. How many times have you spotted logos such as on Instagram with a name of a reputable company that may have a tiny alteration of that name or a web address to appear as well? Nonetheless, everything else may resemble the other authentic website. Do yourself a favor and make sure that the website is encrypted with the https.

Above all, if you are planning to purchase something or entering personal information or checking email, then save doing so if you’re using a public WiFi connection for the privacy of home. Hackers frequent those places and have a talent to capture that information too easily. If you need to still use a public WiFi connection, then set up a VPN, (a virtual private network) installed on that phone or tablet first for encrypted security.

Often people may share too much personal information chatting online that could later come back to haunt and result in online identity theft. I have seen people on Twitter telling someone a time they were leaving to attend a game or a party, which only helps crooks know when to rob you. Why tell anyone when you plan not to be home? Just keep in mind, the world is reading and not just who you may be tweeting, etc.?

Though you may love your apps, but too many of them are not in your best interest. After all, every time that you share that information poses more risk to the possibility of online identify theft.

As a matter of fact, you might want to rethink your passwords. For the sake of easily remembering a password, you might have one that is too simple, too short or just used too often or too long, which could present a threat to online security. Your best defense is creating a complex one with numbers, letters, symbols that are fairly long. Of course, you also can use a password generator. Some are paid versions while others are free such as one available from Norton, which is something to consider.

Online identity theft is a serious problem that too many experience. Therefore, it is critical to be on your guard, especially now with online holiday shopping.


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