Protecting Your Identity on the Internet
Because people use the Internet on a daily basis, they rely on it for a safe and accurate exchange of information. Personal data like Social Security numbers, credit card numbers, and passwords are traveling across the internet. But should it be trusted? Read on to see how you can take steps toward protecting your identity on the internet.
Most people wouldn’t feel comfortable handing their social security number to a stranger on the street, but what is it about the internet that makes users feel safe? How do users know that this personal information will stay confidential?
Unfortunately, criminals have adapted to advancements in technology and people are becoming victims of identity theft at an increasing rate due to information they share over the Internet. In fact, according to the Wall Street Journal, there were more than 9.9 million cases of identity theft last year in the U.S.
The 2016 IRS Data Breach
Just think about the recent data breach at the IRS. In May 2015, the agency reported cyber criminals accessed approximately 114,000 taxpayer accounts. Three months later, that number grew to as many as 334,000. This month, the IRS reported having as many as 724,000 victims.
The IRS said hackers used personal information gathered from other online sources – like bank accounts – to answer personal identity questions and then filed tax returns under victims social security numbers, pocketing the return. When the victims logged on to TurboTax (or another tax filing program), they were notified that their taxes were already filed, but they had absolutely nothing to show for it.
How to Prevent Identity Theft
Check your credit report regularly. Checking your credit report is essential to being vigilant with your identity. If your bank doesn’t offer this service, we recommend checking your credit report (for free) online at annualcreditreport.com. If anything is on that report that isn’t yours, you may be the victim of identity theft. If this is the case, call one of the credit reporting companies and ask for a fraud alert.
Regularly check your credit card and bank statements and keep track of your transactions.
Develop strong passwords. Do not use your name, date of birth, address, or any other personal information for passwords. Use uppercase letters mixed with lowercase, symbols, numbers–anything you can to ensure that your password is not going to be easy to hack. Your mother’s maiden name or your pet’s name aren’t as hard to find as you think.
In fact, it is suggested that for any password, you should not use a word that is found in the dictionary, as there are hacking programs that will attempt every word in the dictionary.
Be cautious when giving out personal information. Do not give Social Security, financial or other personal information to strangers who make contact by phone, Internet or mail. Legitimate businesses will never ask you to provide nor confirm any personal information through an email or pop-up message. When you are asked for your social security number, it’s smart to ask why it is needed and how it will be protected.
If you are concerned about an email you receive from a company, contact that company by phone to verify the information. If there is a link in the email, type it directly into your browser, as some links can be redirected to other sites.
Always make sure you’re on a secure Wi-Fi connection. When you use public Wi-Fi, others may be able to see your data.
Keep antivirus software up to date. Install security and scanning software onto your computer to protect it from online hacking.
If you are careful not to reveal personal information online, and help to make others aware of the risks, you will be playing a part in making the Internet a safer place for all of us to communicate and conduct business. Contact us today to begin taking measures to safeguard your identity.