When the internet first became popular, many counseled against shopping online because they believe it would lead to identify theft. While this was certainly true and remains true to this day, there are more ways for a person’s identity to be stolen online then simply providing credit card numbers to fraudulent sites. From time to time, there may be a security breach and hackers are able to get their hands on a list of credit card numbers, but cyber security has improved tremendously, making top consumer sites practically impenetrable. However, identity theft can still happen if a person isn’t careful.
1. Don’t use the same password on every site, especially for email.
Nowadays, people use their email for everything. They receive bills and pay bills electronically and their email is the portal for everything. A person can’t sign up for anything without it leading back to their email. While email servers, such as Google and Yahoo, pay a ton of money to prevent hackers from being able to access email accounts, smaller sites do not. Smaller sites, such as forums, are easily hacked, and if individuals are using the same password on small sites as they are for the important sites, they can end up having their identity stolen. Once someone has access to an email account, they have access to everything. Think about it. How does someone request a new password if they’ve ‘forgotten’ it? It is sent to their email.
2. Read before agreeing.
Often times, sites will have boxes that can be checked that prevent them from sharing personal information. Be sure to only fill out only the required boxes and uncheck the rest.
3. Consider telling a white-lie.
Let’s face it, a number of sites people sign up for on a daily basis have nothing to do with serious matters. If the site doesn’t pertain to something important, where the information needs to be correct, such as with work, consider filling in false information.
4. If wary about shopping online, but can’t seem to avoid it every now and again, consider using credit cards that are only good for that one transaction.
A number of banks have the option to use one-shot credit card numbers that are only good for one use. Obviously this would become overwhelming if an individual shops on a continuous basis, but it is perfect for someone who only wants to do it now and again and is afraid of risking their identity.
5. Avoid links when dealing with serious matters.
If an email comes in from a bank stating there is a problem with an account, don’t click the links provided. Instead, call the bank to gather further information.
6. Be wary of surfing the web.
While everyone loves encountering new and exciting pages, it can put a person’s identity at risk. Not all sites and pages are created equal and some are less protected than others. If there is a lock at the top of the page, it is a secure connection. Never provide sensitive information on a site where a lock doesn’t appear.
7. Limit the information placed on social media sites.
Facebook and Twitter have become an epidemic, and while most individuals using these sites are surrounded by friends and family members, they are still vulnerable to the outside world and can easily fall victim to identity theft.
8. Avoid phishing scams.
Everyone has received the email of the poor man stranded in Africa (or some other foreign land) and needs money to return home because he only has solid bars of gold with him, or some other nonsense story. These are phishing scams and, while this story may not be all that believable, countless fall victim to the stranger’s plight.
9. Beware of entering sensitive information in public places.
It’s surprising how many times account information is stolen from people looking over other people’s shoulders, but it happens frequently.
10. Once it is on the web, chances are it’s there forever.
So, when all else fails, just don’t put sensitive information on the web. Avoid sending emails with important numbers, like account numbers and social security numbers. Be smart when using the internet.
Fergal Glynn is the Director of Product Marketing at Veracode, an application security company that offers dynamic analysis tools.