The Internet has become an integral part of our daily lives, yet you may find yourself asking, “How can I protect my personal information online?” Whether you’re paying your bills or catching up on the news, passwords are one of the most important safeguards to protect your personal information on the Internet. For maximum security, choose passwords of at least six characters that contain both letters and numbers. Avoid passwords that could easily be guessed, such as your child’s name, your birthday, or your phone number. Don’t use the same password for more than one website and get in the habit of changing your passwords every two to three months to protect your personal data online.
As you’re checking your e-mail, learn to recognize the signs of phishing scams. “Phishing” occurs when someone creates e-mail requesting your personal information that appears to be from a bank or some other type of well-known business. They will often ask you to verify your Social Security number or other important personal information online to prevent your account from being closed. If you click on the link in the message, it will take you to a “spoofed” or fake version of the reputable website. To protect your personal data online, always copy and paste web addresses into your browser window and call the company directly if you are asked to provide personal information via e-mail.
If you like to shop online, be cautious when doing business with unfamiliar retailers. Many unsuspecting shoppers have had their personal information stolen as the result of online shopping scams. Look for stores that have the Better Business Bureau Online seal of approval. Reputable businesses should also offer package tracking and insurance to make sure that your merchandise is delivered safely. Don’t give out any more information than what is truly necessary to complete your purchase; there’s no legitimate reason for a store to need your Social Security number or mother’s maiden name if you’re simply trying to buy a birthday present for your spouse. If you’re concerned about buying from a particular website, call the customer service department to ask how you can better protect your personal information online, with their website.
Blogs and personal websites provide new ways for thieves to steal your personal information online. Even seemingly innocent references to your friends, family, or place of employment can give criminals the details they need to steal your identity. For maximum security, refer to people by nicknames only and think twice about the content of any photos that you choose to post.
Of course, software developers are continually looking for new ways to help you protect your personal information online. Spam filters and phishing filters are being developed to help keep e-mail safe, while the newest version of Internet Explorer contains a number of improved security features. For this reason, it’s important to make sure you check your web browser and virus protection software for updates on a regular basis.