How to Protect Your Personal Information Online
Going online has become part of everyday life, whether it is for everyday activities such as shopping, sending email or paying bills, and managing your accounts. But data breaches, in all their forms, can potentially expose the personal information that we share online, putting consumers at risk of identity theft.
According to the 2014 Travelers Consumer Risk Index, 82 percent of Americans worry about loss of personal privacy, and 63 percent worry about identity theft. Fortunately, there are steps that consumers can take, including not opening unsolicited emails and avoiding unsecure websites, to protect their personal information while online.
The following tips can help you learn how to help stay safe online:
- Research potential retailers to make sure they are reputable and have a secure network and website. Try to avoid buying from a site that does not have a secure socket layer (SSL) encryption installed. In order to do this, look for the ‘s’ at the beginning of a URL – HTTPS:// instead of HTTP:// – to help determine if a site is SSL secured.
- Use only one credit card for online purchases. Be sure to read statements when received to check for fraudulent or unknown charges or activity.
- If you receive an email regarding sales or discounts from a particular retailer, log on directly to the official website for the business. Avoid linking to it from an unsolicited email.
Emails and Attachments
- Do not send personal information in email or instant messages. Emails are out of your control once sent, and can be easily intercepted.
- Do not click on links you receive by email or encounter online that are suspicious or from unknown sources. Only accept and click if it:
- Comes from someone you know.
- Comes from someone you have received mail from before.
- Is something you were expecting.
- Does not look odd with unusual spellings or characters.
- Passes your anti-virus program test.
- Be cautious of emails you receive regarding your financial accounts. If you are not sure of the email’s validity, contact your financial institution directly.
General Online Safety
- Try to limit the personal information you put on the Internet. Social media sites can be good for networking, but identity thieves can use the information you share.
- Remember to keep your Web browser up to date. This can help ensure the latest security features are installed.
- Avoid storing personal information, account numbers and personal identification numbers on your computer.
- Install firewall and anti-virus software. This can help protect you from exposure to malicious cyber attacks.
- Choose strong passwords and keep them private.
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