Today you can access almost anything on the internet, from entertainment, credit and financial services to products from every corner of the world. While the internet affords a certain level of anonymity, there are increasing ways in which your personal information can be at risk.
With awareness as your safety net, you can minimize the chance of an Internet mishap. Being on guard online helps you protect your information, your computer, and your money. To be safer and more secure online, make these practices part of your online routine.
Young people can be vulnerable, as they place a great deal of importance on developing an online personality, and many sites ask for their personal information. While many are savvy enough to set up strict privacy restrictions on their profiles and to avoid email scams, it is worthwhile encouraging them to be proactive about the risks associated with providing personal information online.
To an identity thief, personal information can provide instant access to financial accounts, credit record, and other assets. If you think no one would be interested in your personal information, think again. Anyone can be a victim of identity theft.
One way criminals or hackers get personal information online is by lying about who they are, to convince people to share account numbers, passwords, and other information so they can purchase things in your name.
This type of scam is called "phishing": criminals send email, text, or pop-up messages that appear to come from your bank, a government agency, an online seller or another organization with which you do business. The message asks you to click to a website or call a phone number to update your account information or claim a prize or benefit. It might suggest something bad will happen if you don't respond quickly with your personal information. In reality, legitimate businesses should never use email, pop-ups, or text messages to ask for your personal information.
Protecting Personal Information
Some identity thieves have stolen personal information from many people at once, by hacking into large databases managed by businesses or government agencies. While you can't enjoy the benefits of the Internet without sharing some personal information, you can take steps to share only with organizations you know and trust. Don't give out your personal information unless you first find out how it's going to be used and how it will be protected, and change your passwords regularly to keep your information secure.
If you are shopping online, don't provide your personal or financial information through a company's website until you have checked for indicators that the site is secure, like a lock icon on the browser's status bar or a website URL that begins "https:" (the "s" stands for "secure"). Unfortunately, no indicator is foolproof; some scammers have forged security icons and some hackers have managed to breach sites that took appropriate security precautions.
Stay safe online, peeps!