Falling victim to an online scam can be devastating. It can compromise your identity, your finances and your peace of mind. And the simple truth is that you’re vulnerable when you’re online, especially if you aren’t being careful.
Luckily, a few good habits can go a long way, so take the time to implement these suggestions into your Internet routine. Your future self may thank you for it.
1. Beware Emails Asking for Personal Information
Reputable organizations will never email you asking for your personal information or password. If your bank, credit union, utility provider or anyone else asks you to send them personal information over email, don’t. Also, report this email. When companies actually need your information or want you to change a password, they will send you a link to a web form or site requiring your login information to proceed. If you’re still unsure, call first before fulfilling the request.
2. Encrypt Your Data Before Sending
The Federal Trade Commission recommends that you encrypt personal information before sending it over the Internet. You can do this with special encryption software that scrambles your info so thieves can’t grab it en route to its new destination. You’ll know you are secure when the little lock icon appears in your browser bar, so don’t do anything without that present.
3. Keep Passwords in a Safe Place
Do not store passwords in your email. Repeat: Do not store passwords in your email. This point cannot be emphasized enough because even though it’s an easy way to keep your information ready, it can easily be hacked. And if your email is hacked, you don’t want it to compromise everything else in your life, too. So, if you’re going to write passwords down — which admittedly is a good idea if you have a lot to juggle — do so in a safe place that isn’t online. Google also recommends that you don’t leave passwords in plain sight, such as on your desk or computer, and to use unique passwords for each of your accounts.
4. Monitor Your Bank Account Regularly
Unfortunately, one of the most common means of identity theft these days is skimming. Thieves places skimming devices in card readers, such as POS systems or ATMs, to harvest your personal information as the transaction is taking place. From the outside, everything appears to be normal, but in reality your information has just been stolen and can now be used by others. To the frustration of banks and consumers both, there is little you can do about this other than consistently monitoring your accounts and reporting any suspicious activity to your bank. Doing so will ensure that you don’t end up eating the loss.
5. Keep Quiet on Social Media
Anything you say can and will be used against you outside a court of law — by criminals. The more you share about your personal life, the easier it is to guess your online habits, passwords and security questions. Try to limit what you share, keep your accounts private so only friends and family can see them and always avoid publicly discussing your finances so you don’t attract unwanted attention.