The world is online today. You can pay bills, buy groceries, trade stocks, participate in a DailySale one day sale – virtually any financial transaction can be done from the comfort of your home, office, car, or anywhere else you have an Internet connection. However, identity theft is becoming a real threat, and keeping your data private requires you play a proactive role in how you approach online security.
According to identity theft victim statistics, about 15 million people in the United States have had their identities fraudulently used every year, leading to losses of $50 billion and above, meaning that all of this equates to a serious threat. In response to these statistics, many companies are coming up with services meant to protect you against ID theft. Even though paying a third-party company to protect your identity is effective, there are a few things that you yourself can also do in order to keep your financial information safe while shopping online.
Make Purchases on Trusted Websites
When a deal seems too good to be true, or if payment process details seem sketchy, do not consider it – you may become a statistic in the number of identity theft victims in the country. The best way to ensure that your information is in no way intercepted while making a purchase is to stick to trusted and well-known online shops, or smaller websites that use reputable payment processors. Regardless of the site you are using, you should make sure to look for a padlock icon at the bottom of the browser to verify if the site is certified as safe.
Phishing is a method of identity theft used to obtain sensitive information about you by pretending to be a site that you trust. These schemes are mainly successful, since the victim often thinks that he or she is signing into their bank, credit card, or other similar account— but this is merely a ploy to get ahold of personal information. As you log into accounts related to your financial information, ensure that you are not asked to provide more information than is necessary to log in. Red flags commonly include emails that seem to be sent from an established company, asking you to follow a link to provide your information. Always check the site URL and the email address that sent you the message; often, with some investigation, it becomes clear that these addresses are not valid. Always verify the website’s URL.
Bin the Spam
Be very careful of junk email or spam that finds its way into your email inbox. These messages are usually from phishers and may contain Trojan horses – viruses – that download themselves into your computer and send important information back to their creators. If possible, install spam-filtering software. This will reduce the number of junk emails you receive, in addition to keeping your data safe.
Set-Up Banking Alerts
Most financial institutions offer SMS and email alerts every time your account reaches a certain amount, when you make a purchase direct from the account or when you have transactions over some pre-defined limit. Activate such alerts for all your accounts to ensure that you know about unauthorized payments as soon as possible.
Use Security Questions and Two-Step Verification
It is a good idea to set-up optional security questions to log into your accounts. Financial institutions use security questions that a third-party would not know the answers to, to verify your identity. Always use answers that are not available on any public forums such as the color of your first pet’s eyes.
Additionally, active the two-step verification process where possible. This means that when you try to log into your account, a special One Time Passkey (OTP) is sent to your mobile phone or email address. The OTP will allow you to access your account, and will usually expire in a short amount of time. This also serves as an alert for fraudulent activity; if you receive a passkey without having tried to log into your account, it’s wise to change your password immediately, as someone else is trying to access your account.
Do Not Use Public Computers to Input Private Information
If you are away from home or do not have Internet access on your mobile phone, make sure that you do not save private information on a public computer. If you are at a cyber café or library, ensure that you completely log out of your accounts and never save login information on such computers.
These days, identity theft is commonplace and people are even afraid of using their private computers and devices to access financial information or make purchases online. You can do these things by ensuring that you are actively protecting yourself online. Identity theft affects the lives and credit scores of millions of people every year. Take these precautionary steps whenever you are online to avoid becoming another statistic, and know what to do should you suspect that you identity has been compromised.