How to Avoid Online Identity Theft
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Identity theft. Ugh. It’s happened to most of us at some point or another. You wake up to a slew of emails from your credit card company or bank asking to verify some suspicious activity. Great. Just what you needed, right? Then you get to spend the better part of a morning on the phone getting them reversed, changing passwords and logins, all because some hacker decided to use his skills for evil instead of good. It’s frustrating, believe me, I know, I’ve absolutely been there. I just spent three days cleaning up the mess a hacker made with my boss’ accounts. It’s not fun.
It may seem crazy, but there are several things you can do to avoid being hacked. And no, you don’t have to avoid the internet completely. Let’s take a look at a few.
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Just about everyone knows that you need good virus software. The problem is, most people don’t keep their software up-to-daeffecth current virus definitions. They do the “set it and forget it” thing and don’t renew their subscription. A current subscription is absolutely important and despite the annual cost, it’s well worth it. There are some virus protection programs out there that are free, but personally, I don’t think they’re strong enough and extensive enough to protect your computer. I use Norton Antivirus. It’s powerful and reliable software. The annual cost is about $50. Visit www.norton.com.
If you do have antivirus software, you have to schedule regular scans. If you’re on your computer a lot, you should scan daily. You should also scan daily if your computer is on 24/7 and connected to the internet that whole time. If you shut your computer down daily, or only turn it on a few times a week, then a weekly scan would be enough to keep you protected.
In addition to the antivirus software, you need to protect your computer from malware/spyware. Malware or Spyware can be as damaging to your computer as a virus can be. Hackers can use it to mask your IP address and make it seems as you are performing the transactions they are actually performing themselves. Such as hacking into your credit card and making purchases. The best way to avoid this is to malware/spyware protection software. I recommend Malwarebytes. They have a free version, but I personally use the personal premium version. The basic version just scans and cleans. The premium version will scan, clean, and monitor your computer. As with the antivirus software, you can set up regular scans to keep your computer protected. The premium version runs about $40 per year. Visit www.malwarebytes.org.
An often overlooked, yet very simple step to protecting your online identity is to maintain good passwords for your online accounts. Like the antivirus software, this tends to be a “set it and forget it” thing too. But, it’s equally as important. First, get yourself a small notebook. For every online account, record the website address, your login name, and your password. The secret to a solid, safe password? Make it combinations of letters, numbers, and symbols. Make sure you have at least one capital letter. For example: Fabulous$Pink2017!. If someone is going to hack you, make it as difficult for them as possible.
And, I know it’s easier to use the same password for everything, but I suggest you mix it up. Using something different for some of your accounts. This is why you need to keep a record of them. No way can anyone remember all of them. Lastly, change your passwords at least yearly, but if you can try to do it twice a year, or better yet quarterly. It only takes a few minutes, and it’s worth the piece of mind. Right?
In my opinion, this is absolutely the most important things you need to do. Pay very, very close attention to your credit card accounts and checking/debit accounts. If you have an online login for them, pay attention to your emails. The credit card companies sometimes send emails asking you to verify charges, if they see something suspicious. If something seems extreme, they’ll call. Either way, you need to pay close attention to your activity. Check your accounts every few days, to be sure.
If you use a public computer, like in a library…. be very, very careful that your passwords or account information doesn’t get stored or left behind. Make sure you’re reading the screen. Sometimes it will ask if you want to store the info for next time, or there may be an automatic checkmark for the same type of thing. Don’t do that. Be vigilant!
As I said earlier, identity theft is one big pain in the bee-hind!! Trust me, you don’t want to have to dig yourself out of that whole situation. BUT, with just these few steps, you can easily help protect yourself from identity theft. Save yourself a whole lot of grief and take a few steps for your own piece of mind!
So, tell me what you’re actively doing to protect your identity?? Are you going to implement my suggestions? Leave me some comments!