Tips to Protect Yourself Online

The Internet has become an integral part of daily life for many of us for both work and play. While we are using the Internet increasingly to shop and manage our money, we are also hearing more and more about data breaches and hackers stealing online financial information. While some data breaches are impossible to prevent, there are steps you can take to guard your financial information to reduce the risk of fraud.

You can use these six tips to help protect yourself against fraud and identity theft.

  • Watch what you post. What you post online is widely available and forever exposed. Be careful of what you post, as those with malicious intent may be able to find it online for years to come. Note that Social Security will never ask for personal information on third party networks, such as Facebook. Do not post your Social Security number in blog comments or send it via email, and beware of phishing scams that ask for personal information. Think twice when a site asks you to enter a username or password.
  • Protect your information. Online or offline, start by not giving your financial and personal information – such as your bank account, credit card numbers, personal identification (PIN) number, social security number, date of birth, or address – to people or organizations you don’t know or trust.
  • Use strong passwords and change them periodically. Although online banking and shopping websites often work to try to protect you from financial crimes, hackers can still sometimes gain access. Make sure to always use strong passwords, to change your passwords periodically, and do not use the same passwords for different accounts.
  • Keep your computer software up to date. Keeping your computer software – such as security software – up to date can deter a hacker and protect your financial information.
  • Be wary of public wireless networks. Wi-Fi hot spots like those found in coffee shops, airports and hotels are often not secure. Do not log in to sensitive financial websites from these locations – including from your mobile device – if you can avoid it. Have your own wireless network at home?

Do you suspect someone has stolen your financial information? Follow these steps to report it. If identity theft strikes, take immediate action to help prevent the thief from doing more damage.