The Internet is a fantastic source of solutions — and a minefield of potential dangers. Chief among these dangers: information security. Careless web surfers put their personal information and financial data at risk, often with disastrous consequences.
Identity theft is distressingly common. Millions of people fall victim every year, losing billions of dollars, countless hours of sleep, and invaluable personal pride. The good news: it’s possible to protect yourself against the traps and pitfalls that lurk behind every web address. In our brave new online world, it’s no longer optional to seek out the identity theft protection — protection that validates legitimate websites and protects your information.
Phishing is one of the most common types of identity theft. Phishing thieves make fake websites known as phishing sites. These sites closely resemble, sometimes with impressive accuracy, real, trusted websites.
When phishing websites look almost exactly the same as trusted websites, how can users possibly figure out which one is real and which is the impostor?
Although it’s hard to figure out whether a webpage is original simply by looking at it, there is one thing you can do: check for the green-colored lock with a telltale “https” following. This is a difficult-to-duplicate sign of legitimacy that indicates the website is secure — not hacked. By contrast, a red lock or a red “https” with a line through it indicates a possible hack, or at the very least an unsecure connection.
In fact, it’s a good idea never to provide personal information to a website without the green “https”. A regular “http” indicates a non-secured connection — and, while plenty of non-secured websites aren’t malicious, they’re easier for bad actors to gain access to.
Personal information can leak in numerous ways. Any website that requires a signup is likely to ask for basic personal details like name, address, phone number and email address, and may ask you to create a password as well. Online shopping websites may ask you to provide your bank account details in order to make shopping process faster.
If your information leaks — for instance, if the password of one of the shopping website you frequent is stolen by a sophisticated hacker — then the thief can log in into your account and snag the rest of your personal details, including bank account information. That allows him or her to shop from your account — or simply steal money without your knowledge. He or she can also post unseemly social media content that can tarnish your image and reputation.
So: is there any sort of information you should avoid giving out to make yourself more secure online?
Yes and no. To save your bank account or to avoid money related issues to the extent possible, you should not provide your bank account details, credit card number and passcode until or unless you are fully sure that the site is legitimate and safe. Apart from this, you should avoid giving away details like health insurance information, Social Security number, and driver’s license number, as these can all be used to steal your identity.
Here are some other things you can do to protect your personal information:
- Probably the easiest step you can take is to use more than one password — in other words, not make a single password for multiple websites. This is an understandable temptation, since it’s easier to remember a single password, but it’s definitely not advisable. If you use the same password for multiple accounts, even a single hacked account can expose your entire online life — including potentially sensitive financial accounts.
- Secondly, if you are a die-heart fan of online shopping, try to select the COD (Cash On Delivery) option, if offered. This option keeps you safe and removes worry about potential theft.
- Enter web addresses directly, rather than clicking on the links in a Google search or email. This reduces the likelihood that you’ll encounter a phony phishing page on Google or fall victim to email phishing, a common identity theft trick. For example, if want to log in into Facebook, type “Facebook.com” directly into the address bar, rather than typing “Facebook” in the Google search and then clicking on the first link you see.
- Get into the habit of periodically deleting your browsing history to remove cookies, saved passwords and other data that can be used to compromise your personal accounts and financial information. Depending on your browsing habits, it’s a good idea to clear your history at least once per week. If you aren’t sure how to do this, use your browser’s help feature or ask an expert.
What else can you do to ensure that you’re protected wherever and whenever you browse?
Invest in an identity theft protection program that’s specifically made to notify you which site is safe and which one is not. As the cyber-crime rate increases, the demand for such theft protection programs is increasing in tandem. If your job involves accessing multiple websites, installing trusted identity theft protection software reduces the amount of time and energy required to deal with online safety.
Identity theft protection software is often a better option than figuring out how to protect your information on your own, as it may sometimes be the case that you can’t reasonably determine whether a site is okay or not. The good news: There are many software companies that have launched high-quality protection software at reasonably low costs. If you suspect you need identity theft protection, don’t delay: start your search as soon as possible and fight back against the bad guys and girls who’ll do anything to get your personal data.