How to Avoid Identity Theft Online: 4 Internet Safety Tips
A little bit of vigilance goes a long way when it comes to protecting your identity online. Adding an extra layer of security can be as simple as keeping an eye on your accounts, looking out for suspicious activity and shredding sensitive documents. Some data breaches are out of our control, like when retailers or other companies get hacked. We have to trust certain entities to hand personal data, but we encourage people to do all they can to protect their private information.
Complete privacy is difficult in the digital age, so users must be cautious and wary. Take these precautions to make sure identity thieves don’t steal your personal information.
1. Monitor Your Credit Reports
Keeping an eye on your credit is an important way to make sure no one is trying to mess with your personal financial information. If you want to see who is making inquiries about you credit, you can request a free credit report from any of the three national credit reporting companies:
I recommend reviewing your credit reports occasionally in order to make sure there is no suspicious activity and everything appears as expected. If you want an extra layer of protection, a credit freeze is an effective line of defense against fraud and identity theft.
2. Be On the Lookout For Unusual Statements Or Bills
Pay attention to statements, receipts and bills. If you’re signed up for electronic bills or statements, it’s easy for them to get lost in your email inbox. Regularly looking at statements will help you notice if there is suspicious activity happening in any of your accounts. If you become a target for fraud, you’ll want to catch it as soon as possible and contact your bank for help.
3. Shred Documents Containing Financial Or Personal Information
Don’t throw sensitive documents in the trash! Use a paper shredder or shredding service to dispose of anything with your full name, phone number, address, social security number, bank account information or other private personal details. Check out this helpful shredding guide, and consider shredding documents such as:
- ATM Receipts
- Bank and Credit Card Statements
- Paid Bills and Invoices
- Pay Stubs
- Credit Offers
4. Use Caution While Traveling
You’re more vulnerable to certain types of fraud and identity theft while traveling. If you want to protect your identity online while traveling, take extra precautions. Let your bank know where you’re going and how long you’ll be gone and ask the post office to hold your mail. If any bills are due while you’re gone, see if you can plan payments before you leave.
While you’re on your trip, observe extra safety measures to protect your personal items and information.
- If you need to pay a bill online while you’re away, make sure you’re connected to a secure wifi network.
- Ask your hotel if your room has a safe, and use the safe to protect valuables and extra cash when you’re not in your room.
- Exercise caution when using your debit card to pay local vendors and retailers; when in doubt, pay with cash.
- Carry copies of important travel documents, and make sure to store them separately from the original versions. It’s also a good idea to have a digital copy of your passport stored online, just in case.