Protecting Yourself Against Identity Theft
More than 17 million Americans fell victim to identity theft in 2014 with a total financial loss of $15.4 billion.¹ Are you taking the right steps to protect yourself online? Like many things, if you take precautionary measures now, it can help to protect your identity and personal information in the future.
- Understand your digital footprint
Online transactions and account management have become the norm for most people, so just think about how big that makes your digital footprint! With your personal — and financial — information in so many places, it's important to take a regular inventory of what information you have where. Are websites storing your personal data? Outline where you have online accounts — from financial institutions to retailers — and note the type of data they're storing. If you're no longer using a site, it's a good idea to delete your account.
- Set smart and strong (and several) passwords
From financial accounts to grocery lists, your offline world is becoming increasingly accessible online under the protection of a password. Make it difficult for hackers to gain access to your accounts by creating a unique password for each online account you have. Strong passwords should be at least eight characters and incorporate capital letters, numbers, and special characters or symbols.
- Use email wisely
Sending and receiving emails are an everyday occurrence in our lives, and in some cases a substitute for face-to-face communication. Be cautious about the type of information that you send, even if you have high quality security software installed on your computer. Avoid sending credit card information, Social Security numbers or other sensitive data in an email.
- Be on the look-out for scams
By pretending to be a legitimate business, phishing scams trick users into providing sensitive information, such as account passwords or log-in details. This is most often done through fraudulent websites and emails. If you receive an email prompting you to act by linking you to a website, verify that the website is legitimate before clicking on it or entering any data.
- Be mindful of your child's online activities
For many reasons, it's a wise practice to pay attention to your child's online activity. Consider installing software that allows you to set parental controls and limit time spent online. Doing so will help protect your child from undesirable websites and minimize them unknowingly sharing your family's personal information.
- The Washington Post, Identity Theft Affected 17.6M, Cost $15.4B in 2014; Justice Dept., 9/28/15.