5 Steps to Prevent Online Identity Theft

With the popularity of the Internet for many common activities such as shopping, banking and connecting with friends and family, identity theft has become a serious issue. Proceed with caution in your online activities by learning how to prevent cyber crimes.

Protect Computers and Devices

Maintain current virus protection on any computers and devices you use to access the Internet. Keep firewalls in force on home computers to make sure information stored on your computer is secure. Create strong passwords for your computers, and always lock your computer when you aren’t using it. If you use mobile devices, keep them secure with passwords. You can also install virus protection on smartphones and tablets, which will help prevent viruses from infiltrating your devices. If you upgrade to a new computer or mobile device, always delete all personal information you may have stored before disposing of, selling or giving your computer or device away by wiping the operating system or rebuilding it.

Secure Accounts

When creating online accounts, make up strong and complex passwords that would-be thieves won’t be able to easily guess. Don’t use common words or phrases, and never use information that others could get access to like your phone number, birthday or Social Security number. Change your passwords frequently. If you hear about a data breach with a bank or company you do business with, change your password immediately. Don’t reuse old passwords. Once you have created secure accounts, never share your login information with others.

Check Companies Prior to Use

Before doing any business online, always check the company or organization to make sure it’s legitimate. It’s not difficult to create a website that looks professional as a means of stealing personal information from victims. Before you enter any sensitive information on a website, always look for background information on the company as well as contact information. To be sure, call and speak with a customer service representative. You can also look up the company at the Better Business Bureau to learn about crime statistics and to see if other consumers have lodged complaints against the company.

Monitor Personal Data

Check every several months to make sure your personal data is secure. One way to do this is to enter your full name into an Internet search engine. Check the returns and follow them to websites to make sure sensitive data has not been published online. If you find personal information on a website, contact the owner to have it removed. The owner has to follow applicable laws about removal of sensitive data.

Release Sensitive Information Carefully

Before entering your information on a website, make sure the website is secure first. A secure website will have “https” in the URL and not just “http.” You should also see a padlock and a trust seal badge to indicate that the website is partnering with a security service. Click on the badge, and you should navigate to the security firm’s website. Peruse websites to check for signs of malware infection. If you see suspicious pop-ups, malicious ads, malicious redirects that take you to other websites, unusual links in the text or search engine warnings, don’t enter your information in the website.