Your identity is the most personal, non-tangible thing you possess. Unless you have protection, you may not know your identity got stolen until you get a large credit card bill or do a credit check. Each year, an estimated 17 million American’s identities are stolen. Below is a list of ways to stay safe online.

Why Identify Theft Is Serious

Identify theft includes several crimes. These include: stealing account credentials, assuming your financial identity, stealing your credit card numbers or your social security number. With this information, the thief can open credit cards in your name, use your information to steal your tax refund, or even assume your identity if arrested.

Anyone who has experienced any of these scenarios can attest to how difficult it can be to take your life back. Both legally or financially, the amount of documentation, time, and proof you need to prove that you are who you say you are is astounding. Worse still, identity theft can impact your credit for years.

How Do Thieves Steal Your Information?

In the physical world, there are several ways your information can fall into the hands of thieves. Firstly, the low-tech way thieves are stealing your mail or digging in your trash. Before you throw out sensitive information, the documents should be shredded. This includes an old credit card or bank statement. Thieves will install skimmers on card readers to swipe your information. Restaurant staff can similarly steal your information.

In the online realm, the ways to steal your information are easy. Phishing emails are becoming more convincing, tricking you into handing your information over to the bad guys. Social engineering scams are on the rise. This is where the bad guys may use personal details to get you to reveal personal information without you knowing it. Lastly, there are the database breaches that can expose millions of people at once.

Ways To Stay Safe

The only way to stay entirely safe and private is to abandon technology altogether. However, in 2020, that isn’t a realistic option. Below is a list of steps to take to help keep your identity safe in the online world. Identify theft is a crime of opportunity, and while everyone may not accept all of these steps, doing a few will help keep you safe.

Low Hanging Fruit

  • Strong passwords: Make your passwords long, mix up different variations of letters, numbers, and characters.
  • Unique passwords for all sites: While it is hard to remember several passwords, having difficulty makes it harder for passwords to be guessed or deciphered in brute force attacks
  • Password managers: As mentioned above, remembering passwords is tough. If you follow the previous step, it can be even more challenging. However, there are several password manager companies like Keeper, LastPass, Dashlane, and more. Dashlane estimates that the average user can have up to 200 digital accounts that require passwords. Password managers are inexpensive, convenient, and accessible from anywhere.
  • Public WiFi: Watch out for public WiFi networks. If you use one, make sure you get the right information from an employee of the establishment. Bad guys can set up networks in public places to monitor and capture any data transferred through them.

Aware (but not paranoid)

  • Social media linking: When setting a new online account, Facebook could ask to link your account. This is a convenient way to log in, but connecting accounts can be catastrophic if one account is compromised.
  • Two-step authentication: This is a great last line of defense. Even if the bad guys get access to your account information, they will not be able to sign in without the one-time code that gets sent to your phone to finish the sign-in process.
  • Other social considerations: We are putting more and more of our lives online. While this is great to stay connected, the more information you put online, the more hackers will know about you. This enables them to target you with a phishing attack that is more effective since it’s tailored made to you. In addition, the more a hacker knows about you, the more comfortable they can socially engineer you into handing over personal information.

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