With all that is going in with the world today, it’s more important than ever to secure your online devices and digital life. Identity theft is at an all-time high, and if you don’t close those loops, hackers and thieves could snag you in a trap of fraud or theft.
Identity Theft Checklist
Let’s be honest; it’s just easier to do things online. You’re at the supermarket, and you forgot to transfer your paycheck into your primary checking account. You whip out your smartphone, log into your bank app, and transfer the funds. Boom! All done nice and easy. The problem is, did you connect to the supermarket’s Wi-Fi before doing so? If so, you could have been the victim of a man-in-the-middle attack and left yourself and your connection to your bank wide open for hackers.
To protect yourself as you navigate daily life and use these super convenient tools to make purchases online, perform banking functions, and update your schedule or profiles on social media, follow these tips below to secure all your devices.
First, let’s talk about the things that are most valuable to a scammer so you can protect those items. For identity theft, the most essential things would be:
- Your social security number.
- Your birthdate.
- Your mother’s maiden name.
- Your full name and address
For fraud and theft, the most important things would be:
- Usernames/passwords for accounts.
- Bank details.
- Credit card numbers.
Now you know what to protect the most. The tips for doing this are:
- Always be on the lookout for phishing scams. A phishing scam is an email or text you receive that appears to be coming from a company you do business with or a legitimate government agency. It may urge you to fix some security flaw or verify your credentials. These are scams to watch out for and stay away from at all costs.
- Never use public Wi-Fi to do banking or log onto any financial accounts. Hackers and thieves hang out in public Wi-Fi locations with sniffers waiting to intercept random online traffic to grab your username, passwords, PINs, and bank details.
- Invest in a VPN. A personal VPN masks your online activity and hides your IP address so that marketers and hackers cannot track your whereabouts or see what you are doing. A VPN also encrypts your connection to any website, storefront, or online account that you access online.
- Order free copies of your credit reports from Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian, once a year and go over them carefully looking for signs of fraud (new accounts in your name that you did not authorize). Report any abuse immediately to authorities and the FTC.
- Install good security software that monitors your online traffic and alerts you to any intrusions, malware, viruses, Trojans, and ransomware attacks. Use network-monitoring software to control devices connected to your Wi-Fi and alert you of anything suspicious.
- Change all your passwords to start off the year fresh. Use long, strong passwords with a combination of letters (uppercase and lowercase), numbers, and symbols; long passphrases are the best.
- Turn on multi-factor authentication on every device and on all accounts that you can. Whenever offered, take advantage of this additional layer of security. Turn on FaceID or Fingerprint scanning on all your mobile devices so that anyone trying to use them can’t, without your biometrics. If you use an iPhone, turn on data encryption by setting a phone passcode. Now everything on the device will be encrypted.
- Review all your social media accounts and tighten up the privacy and security settings to control who sees what and how much information is shared. There are even ads settings where you can limit how much of your data is tracked for marketing purposes. Those lists of information are often sold on the dark web. You don’t need additional information about you floating around out there. You may also want to go back and remove images or content that exposes personal information about you.
- Watch out for social engineering tactics. You might see an ad on social media for something you have been interested in buying. The price might seem amazing. Do not click on it unless you are sure it is from the vendor. Keep a close eye on URLs before buying anything. Some of these social engineering ads are meant to take you to a malicious website where your device is infected, or you are asked for personal information. Either way, it’s going to be trouble.
- File your taxes early to avoid someone filing a fraudulent return in your name. Even better, sign up for the IRS’s ID Protection PIN program so that you receive a special code and no one can file a return in your name without it.
Make 2021 your best year yet and your most secure by taking precautions now and securing your entire online life so you can enjoy it without worries.