If you’re like most Americans, then your digital life is a significant part of your regular life. Consider that 48% of adults go online several times daily, and 31% say they’re online almost constantly. In the process, you’ve likely developed an online identity that includes accounts, passwords, and personal and financial information.
Protecting your online identity is critical. Scammers can steal your personal and financial information to create fake accounts or attempt to access your real ones. Fortunately, there are some simple ways you can reduce your risk.
Follow these Dos and Don’ts to help stay safe online:
- Do secure your online accounts. Creating unique usernames and passwords for your online accounts is smart, but it’s just the first step. In addition, enable two-factor authentication, which requires you to enter a one-time passcode sent to your phone to access your accounts. When it comes to social media, make your accounts as private as possible and share your posts and stories only with people you know.
- Do protect your devices. Taking steps to protect your devices adds another layer of online security. You want to ensure that if someone stole your phone, they wouldn’t be able to get into your bank accounts, mobile payments, or other financial tools and data. Start by enabling facial recognition to access your smartphone. Also, keep your phone updated with new operating systems, which often include additional security measures, and ensure your phone locks when it’s not in use.
- Do educate yourself about scams. Online scammers are always changing and improving their methods for accessing and stealing people’s information. However, you can reduce your risk by learning about common scams and how to avoid them. For example, one of the most prevalent scams is email phishing—scammers send you an email purporting to be from a reputable company and ask you to provide personal or financial information. Be wary of emails that ask for account numbers, passwords, or credit card numbers.
- Do consider your online payment options. There are multiple ways to pay online; some are more secure than others. For example, try to use a credit card for online purchases whenever possible—they tend to have more consumer protections than debit cards if something goes wrong. Mobile payment methods like Apple Pay and Google Pay are also good choices. The apps typically require you to authenticate your identity to complete a purchase. They also use advanced encryption to obscure your credit card and other identifying information.
- Don’t reuse your passwords. The convenience of using the same password across multiple accounts is tempting; in fact, 68% of Americans report they do so. However, in an era of online hacks and breaches, re-using passwords is risky. Cybercriminals steal usernames and passwords and then use AI-powered programs to test the passwords across multiple accounts, hoping for a win. If your password to an online retailer is the same as your password to your bank, you may have a problem. A password manager can help you remember and manage different passwords and keep your accounts more secure.
- Don’t respond to unsolicited emails and texts. As previously noted, phishing is one of the most common online scams. Cybercriminals have become very adept at impersonating real companies. For instance, you might receive a text saying that a package can’t be delivered unless you input some additional information. Or an alert from a “bank” saying your account has been compromised. To investigate such requests, check the sender’s email (often they’re coming from a Hotmail or Gmail, which is a red flag) and the URL provided to see if it matches with the actual company.
- Don’t forget to back up your data. Your devices contain all sorts of precious information, from personal and financial data to photos, documents, and more. Backing up your data helps ensure you don’t lose important content if your device becomes compromised. To back up your data, you create copies of the files or information you want to protect and then upload those copies to a cloud-based application. Most devices offer a backup feature that lets you easily back up your data with a few clicks.
- Don’t wait if you think your identity has been compromised. If you suspect someone has been making unauthorized purchases or accessing any of your accounts without your permission, act immediately. Alert the company that your account may have been compromised, and follow their instructions to re-secure your information. You can also check your credit reports for free annually —www.annualcreditreport.com — for suspicious activity or potential identity theft.
Your online identity is a distinct and important part of your life. Follow these tips to help you navigate the digital world and secure your personal data. For more information about protecting your identity online, connect with Valley Bank today.
This article is intended for educational purposes only. Statements of fact and opinions expressed are solely of the writer and, unless expressly stated to the contrary, are not the opinion or position of Valley Bank. Valley Bank does not endorse or approve, and assumes no responsibility for, the content, accuracy or completeness of the information presented.