Identity theft is a serious problem that can affect anyone who uses the internet. According to the Federal Trade Commission:
- Social media: 257,945 reports of money lost to social media fraud from January 2021 to June 2023
- Older consumers: $1.6 billion lost to fraud in 2022
Identity theft has evolved so much compared to the reason decade due to increased use of the internet, social media scams and technological advances in general. However, the preventative measures have also simultaneously evolved. Therefore, being knowledgeable on protecting your identity in a digital age is crucial.
Protecting Your Identity In A Digital Age
Identity thieves can use your personal information to open fraudulent accounts, make unauthorized purchases, or even commit crimes in your name. That’s why it’s important to protect your identity online and offline. The use of social media and other online platforms for financial transactions gives leeway to a lot of identity thieves to get access to your information. With technological advancements the phishing activates look even more real. However, the one common thing is that you always have to click on a link for them to get into your information. Therefore, the most important thing to remember is that you look at the links twice to double check the credibility of the source you receive such links before taking any action.
Some Tips to Help You Safeguard Your Identity in a Digital Age:
- Use strong passwords and change them regularly. A strong password should be at least 12 characters long, include a mix of letters, numbers, and symbols, and not be easy to guess or related to your personal information. You should also use different passwords for different accounts and change them every few months. You can use a password manager app to help you create and store your passwords securely.
- Monitor your credit reports and bank statements. You should check your credit reports at least once a year from each of the three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. You can get a free copy of your credit report every 12 months from annualcreditreport.com. You should also review your bank statements and credit card bills regularly for any suspicious or unauthorized activity. If you notice any errors or signs of fraud, report them immediately to the relevant institution and the FTC.
- Be careful what you share online. Social media platforms and websites may ask you to provide personal information such as your name, date of birth, address, phone number, email, or even your social security number. You should only share this information with trusted sources and only when necessary. You should also review your privacy settings and limit who can see your posts and profile information.
- Use a VPN when using public Wi-Fi. Public Wi-Fi networks are convenient but not secure. Anyone on the same network can potentially access your data or intercept your online activity. To protect yourself, you should use a virtual private network (VPN) when connecting to public Wi-Fi. A VPN encrypts your data and hides your IP address, making it harder for hackers or snoops to track you online.
- Shred sensitive documents before disposing of them. Identity thieves can also obtain your information from physical sources such as mail, receipts, bills, statements, or other documents that contain your personal or financial information. To prevent this, you should shred these documents before throwing them away or recycle them in a secure bin. You should also opt for paperless statements and bills whenever possible to reduce the amount of paper clutter and waste.
- Avoid clicking links that seem suspicious. Avoid clicking on links or opening attachments from unknown or suspicious sources, as they may contain malware or phishing scams that can steal your information or infect your device.
So, to wrap it up, keeping your identity safe online is not easy, but you can do it if you know what you’re doing. We use the internet for everything these days, but that also means more chances for someone to steal our info. But don’t worry, you can fight back by learning how these bad guys work. Using strong passwords and security tools, and keeping up with the latest news on cyber threats are some ways. Don’t forget, protecting your online identity is not a one-time thing, but something you have to do every day. Make it a habit to check your accounts and devices regularly, and don’t let the hackers get you down. You got this, just be smart and careful online. That’s how you stay safe and keep your online identity in your hands.