Taking steps to protect your information and how you use it online is your best defense against identity theft. There are many ways to guard your sensitive information in order to make it difficult for fraudsters to gain access to it.
Freeze your credit:
- A credit freeze, also known as a security freeze, allows consumers to lock their credit report preventing credit bureaus from releasing a credit report without permission making it more difficult for identity thieves to open an account in someone else’s name. In order to place a freeze on your credit report, contact each of the major credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, TransUnion, or Innovis). Depending on the state you live in, there is typically a fee to add a freeze and an additional fee every time you remove it. Keep in mind existing accounts (such as tax refund and health insurance) may still be at risk for fraud.
Safeguard your email:
- Never open or respond to SPAM email (unsolicited bulk email messages).
Delete all spam email without opening it. If you open or respond to the messages, it confirms your email to the sender, which can put you at a higher risk.
- Do not click on links in an email.
The links could be harmful and therefore it is safer to retype the web address into a browser than to click on it directly from within the body of an email.
- Do not open attachments from senders you do not know.
If you do not know the sender or are not expecting the attachment or the email, delete it.
- Do not open attachments with unusual filename extensions.
The most common filename extensions are “.doc” for documents or “.jpeg” for images. If a file has a double extension like “whatsup.doc.pif,” it is most likely a harmful file and it should not be opened. Other dangerous filename extensions are .exe, .pif, or .vbs.
- Do not give your email address or other sensitive or personal information to unfamiliar websites.
If you are unfamiliar with a website, don’t assume you can trust it. Many sites sell email addresses or may not protect your personal information in the way you would expect.
- Never provide sensitive information through email.
Using fake emails pretending to be from your financial institution or an online store is a common trick used by criminals to gain consumer’s personal information for fraud. It is also smart to avoid sending passwords over email.
- Don’t believe the urgency in unsolicited emails.
Fraudsters use the tactic of sending out urgent messages that claim an emergency such as closing your account if you don’t send sensitive information immediately. Financial institutions will never request sensitive information through email so this is a telltale sign of a fraudulent email.
- Notice poor design and bad spelling and grammar.
An unprofessional looking design along with typos and grammar errors can be a sign of a fraudulent email or website.
- Backup your sensitive data.
This is a good practice because backing up sensitive files will allow you to restore damaged, lost or corrupted data if needed.
Safeguard your identity when using the internet.
Your identity online goes beyond just your email so it is important to protect it in other areas as well.
- Opt out of allowing a website to save your credentials
When creating an account or making a purchase on a website, it is typical to be asked if you want your access credentials to be saved for later use. It is wise to avoid this practice because sensitive information, such as your credit card number, will be archived.
- Be careful about where you surf.
Not all websites practice good safety measures. If a site is involved in illegal or suspicious activity, it is possible that it hosts dangerous software and causes users to be susceptible to attacks on their computer.
- Don’t select “Remember My Password.”
When banking or shopping online, one should never use the “remember my password” feature.
- Don’t use public computers when entering sensitive information.
When using a public computer, it is wise to avoid sharing sensitive information since it is impossible to know the vulnerabilities on the machine.
- Work on a computer you can trust.
This practice helps you to be aware of what types of software is in place to protect you, such as firewalls, antivirus, and anti-spyware. These protections can help make sure your computer and your data are safe from outside attacks.
- Select a strong password.
The strongest types of passwords are the ones that can’t be guessed easily. Do not use personal information like first names, pet names, phone numbers, Social Security numbers or birth dates. It is smart to use a combination of numbers, letters, and symbols. Also, make sure to change your passwords regularly. It is important to differentiate passwords between your various accounts.
- Use a secure browser.
When completing online transactions, make sure your browser is secure with an Extended Validation SSL Certificate which provides an extra layer of security by requiring third-party Certificate Authorities (CA) to follow a strict insurance and management process for certificate approval and delivery.
- Update security software whenever you can.
It is important to update your software whenever the vendor sends a notification about a new version. Typically, newer versions include security patches that older versions may lack. Make sure you also invest in internet security software and that it’s up to date
- Avoid clicking on advertisements.
Do not click on advertisements on websites or social media platforms. If you do not know where these advertisements lead, you cannot guarantee that they are safe to click on.
- Log out, shut down, disconnect.
When you are done with your online banking session or on any other website that you are logged into using a username and password, make sure to log out. When you are not using your computer, make sure to disconnect it from the internet or turn it off.
- Lock your computer when it is not in use.
This is another important step in making sure an unauthorized person cannot gain access to your computer.
- Beware of shoulder surfing.
This happens when using your electronics in a public location such as an airport, coffee shop, library, etc. Thieves will watch your activity online in order to gain your personal information. When using technology in a public place, be mindful of who may be watching.
- Set up a timeout.
This feature is another layer of safety that will automatically time out your online banking session if you leave your computer without logging out.