Being a victim of identity theft can cause irreparable damage to your finances and your personal reputation. Being diligent with your online security can help lessen the risk of having your identity stolen.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security offers tips on how to protect yourself from identity thieves:
- Do business with reputable companies – Before providing any personal or financial information, make sure that you are interacting with a reputable, established company. Some attackers may try to trick you by creating malicious web sites that appear to be legitimate, so you should verify the legitimacy before supplying any information.
- Take advantage of security features – Passwords and other security features add layers of protection if used appropriately.
- Check privacy policies – Take precautions when providing information, and make sure to check published privacy policies to see how a company will use or distribute your information. Many companies allow customers to request that their information not be shared with other companies; you should be able to locate the details in your account literature or by contacting the company directly.
- Be careful what information you publicize – Attackers may be able to piece together information from a variety of sources. Avoid posting personal data in public forums.
- Use and maintain anti-virus software and a firewall – Protect yourself against viruses and Trojan horses that may steal or modify the data on your own computer and leave you vulnerable by using anti-virus software and a firewall. Make sure to keep your virus definitions up to date.
- Be aware of your account activity – Pay attention to your statements and check your credit report yearly. You are entitled to a free copy of your credit report from each of the main credit reporting companies once every twelve months.