Many internet users assume that privacy protections are implied on well-known websites like Facebook, but nothing could be further from the truth. You must take an active role in your online privacy and protection to keep your data out of unscrupulous hands.
Use a Unique Personal Identification Number
You should protect all your devices with a PIN where this feature is available. Your simple four-digit PIN takes only a few seconds to enter but saves you from potential hackers looking to steal your personal data. Your PIN is crucial for protecting your chip-and-PIN credit cards and debit cards as well. You’ll use this number often, so choose wisely.
The worst PINs to use are:
- 0000 or 1111
- 1212 or 1234
- Variations of your birthdate
- The last four digits of your Social Security Number
- A portion of your phone number
- Your house address
Instead, choose something that has no link to your other personal data and no obvious pattern to it. The more random, the better.
Limit Your Social Sharing
Image via Flickr by Sean MacEntee
Do you have a complete social media profile with valuable personal details such as your birthdate, e-mail address, phone number, and physical address? These are all valuable crumbs of data that hackers are looking for. Combined with other information, such as your employer, hobbies, and recent personal activity, criminals have all they need to steal your identity.
Your email address doubles as your login for many accounts, such as PayPal, giving hackers a head-start to access your money. With your phone number, a thief can place a fraudulent call impersonating a reliable source to get more information. Remember that ER visit you posted about on Facebook? A savvy identity thief could use that to pose as the hospital calling you for billing details. The less you share, the safer you are.
Check Your Privacy Settings
Privacy isn’t assumed online, and in many cases you’ll need to do some extra digging to find settings that will protect you. Congress recently repealed privacy protections that kept data such as search history and social media posts private.
You may have to change your default search engine or delete your social media profiles if you want complete protection. Companies love gathering your data because it provides valuable marketing information. However, hackers can also go after these informational gold mines, exposing you to identity theft and fraud. Read user agreements carefully so you know what protections are available and how you can access them.
Use Separate Email Addresses
Set up several email addresses, and divide your usage so there’s minimal overlap. You might use one email address for social media, one for professional messages, one for promotions, and another as a login for your financial accounts. This will make it easier to spot fraud if a message shows up at the wrong account. It also makes it more difficult for criminals to track you across platforms.
Take a proactive role in your online privacy to make sure your information is as secure as possible. With a watchful eye you can prevent or catch many instances of fraud.