Identity theft is all about control. Who has control over your personal and financial information? Is it you, or the criminal on the other end of your computer using your information to apply for a credit card? Losing control of your personal information can be all too easy online. But by taking some precautions, you can maintain privacy while safely surfing the internet.
1. Adjust social network privacy settings.
Facebook has been working to simplify their privacy settings, but they can still be confusing to the average user. Spend about ten minutes a month making sure that your privacy settings are what they should be, and are actually protecting your privacy.
To get there, log into Facebook. In the top right of your screen it should say “Account.” When you scroll over or click on that tab, you can see your privacy settings. For a step by step process of how to adjust your privacy settings, please visit my website.
Twitter, another popular social network, also lets you lock your account from public view. In settings, there’s a feature called “protect my tweets.” They have had breaches before, so it is always good to take every precaution possible to protect your information.
2. Frequently change passwords.
It is good to rotate passwords on sites you use often—especially sites that hold your financial information. Every six months or so, you should change your passwords just in case someone has access to your online profile. A good way to keep track of these passwords is with a password keeper such as 1password. This way, you can store your passwords to all sites in one place and use a master password to gain access.
3. Opt out of ad tracking.
Online ad networks often install a small file on the computers of people who visit certain websites. These so-called cookies can log your surfing habits, allowing advertisers to tailor ads to your interests.
If you are trying to keep some online privacy then you should opt out. In the settings panel of your web browser make sure that you’ve disabled cookies from third party websites. Most advertising companies use this information to directly target you with ads of products that you use. They know what items you purchase, because they see where you go online and keep a record.
4. Use a secure Internet connection.
Don’t browse private sites and look at personal or financial information while on a public Internet connection. Never shop online at your local coffee shop, because you never know who may be spying on you with that very same open internet connection. If you are making an online purchase, looking at your online banking, emailing a personal story or photo, only do so on a secure, password protected internet connection.
5. Think before you post.
While this may seem like an obvious suggestion, many people don’t do it. Posting that you are at your local watering hole at 3:00 p.m. on a Thursday after you called in sick could get you in more trouble than you planned on. Uploading an embarrassing photo of yourself may cost you a future job. I know of a company that didn’t hire a candidate for a position because when they checked out her Facebook profile, her status was “I just need a job—any job!” That made her less appealing to hire than other candidates that were less vocal on their pages.
Use your brain. Posts are public, permanent, and exploitable.