Identity theft is nothing to jest about. Once your personal details get out in the wild, the thieves can take over your accounts, commit fraud in your name, and cause all sorts of mayhem. The truth is, there is no foolproof way of staying safe unless you are willing to live without an internet connection for the rest of your days. There are, however, numerous ways of reducing the chances of becoming a victim.
1#) Be vigilant when opening emails from unknown senders
If you receive an email and don’t recognize the sender, think twice about clicking on any links inside of it (or following the instructions for that matter). The fraudsters often masquerade as associates of legitimate companies you work with to convince you into handing over something you should keep private. Embedding malware into the messages they send you is not out of the question either.
2#) Hide your IP when browsing the web
For many casual internet users, the question “How to hide my IP?” may arise. Doing that by using a VPN is a must these days. As the world keeps transitioning toward working remotely, hackers from every part of the world are searching for opportunities that would allow them to get a slice of your sensitive personal data. If your network is not set up the right way, they may break into it by trying to connect to your IP. By masking it, they’ll be forced to look for other ways to get the job done.
3#) Make sure don’t reveal any sensitive data on social media
If your Facebook account seems like an open diary, you may want to reconsider your approach. In other words, if you’re liberal with sharing personally-identifiable data, such as phone numbers, your pet’s name, your physical or email address, you should stop now. Whether you’re aware of this or not, this can later be used for the purposes of breaking into your accounts. Even if your profile is set to private, by resorting to social engineering tactics, fraudsters can misrepresent themselves as the friends you know in real life only to siphon sensitive information from you.
4#) Generate strong passwords
Expanding the point made above, if one of your passwords is something like “your pet’s name” + “random numbers,” it’s easy to see how someone could gain unauthorized access to one of your accounts by guessing their way through. Not only should you combine capital letters with numbers and special symbols, but you should also change your passwords on a regular basis. Also, using the same password for several accounts is a bad idea. Don’t allow yourself to compromise your security by being lazy. Although longer passwords are harder to remember, you can use a password manager to keep them safe and sound without placing a burden on your brain.
5#) Set up banking alerts
Logging into your bank account every so often to check the balance is considered to be good practice. In case something is wrong, you’ll notice it in a relatively short time frame. Better yet, you should set up banking alerts to notify you whenever someone initiates a suspicious transaction from your account. If you notice this happening, you should inform your bank immediately. Given how most banks tend to encourage you to activate banking alerts, the process should be rather straightforward.
6#) Set up two-factor authentication
Two-factor authentication will protect you if someone manages to obtain the password of your account(s). As soon as anyone tries to log in to your account, you’ll receive an SMS containing an additional string of randomly-generated letters and numbers to type in before access is granted. So, even if the first line of security fails and the hackers somehow manage to obtain the password, they’ll also need to have your phone in their hands to break in. In case you use your email account as storage for important documents, don’t delay setting it up.
7#) Protect every copy of your documents, physical and digital alike
After you no longer need a digital copy of your documents, either destroy it or use data encryption for safekeeping. At the same time, it’s important to exercise caution when handling your physical documents, too. Never leave them unattended and if you must leave them inside of your home, either hide them well or store them in a safe. It’s important to have it bolted down (particularly so if the safe has smaller dimensions), otherwise, the thief may take off with it.
The principles outlined above should serve you well when protecting your identity from the sticky hands of those who are out to misuse it. So do what you can to stay safe and remember – vigilance is key.