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Protecting Your Online Identity

Jana CastanonBy Jana Castanon

Recently in the news we heard that 13 politicians and celebrities had their personal information hacked from their computer and posted on an online website. While some of the information was false, the credit reporting agency Equifax was able to confirm that in at least 4 cases the information posted was accurate. Consumers should take notice. Even being diligent with online security measures is sometimes not enough. While hackers are getting more sophisticated in the ways they are obtaining information, there are still things that you can do to make sure your information is as protected as it can be.  

  • Install anti-virus, anti-spyware, and firewall protection, and keep them up to date.
  • Don’t open e-mails from strangers. Malware can be hidden in embedded attachments and graphics files.
  • Don’t open attachments unless you know who sent them and what they contain.
  • Don’t click on pop-ups. Configure Windows or your web browser to block them.
  • Don’t provide your credit card number online unless you are making a purchase from a website you trust. Reputable sites will always direct you to a secure page with a URL starting with https:// whenever you actually make purchases, or are asked to provide confidential information.
  • Use strong passwords: at least six characters, including at least one symbol and number, and no reference to your name or other personal information. Use a different password for every site that requires one, and change passwords regularly.
  • Store your passwords in an online password manager. 
  • Never send a user name, password, or other confidential information via e-mail, even if you think it is coming from a reliable source.
  • Consider turning off your computer when you’re not using it, or at least putting it in standby mode.
  • Don’t keep passwords, tax returns, and other financial information on your hard drive.

Don’t be complacent when it comes to protecting your online identity. When you receive a bank or credit card statement, skim over it. Take the time to verify that everything is correct. It is also important to check your credit report once a year for accuracy. There could possibly be accounts on it that you don’t know about. You are entitled to one free report from each of the three credit agencies by going to www.annualcreditreport.com.    

 Jana Castanon is the Community Outreach Coordinator for Apprisen. Apprisen is a member of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. To schedule an appointment with a certified financial counselor call 800.355.2227, or visit Apprisen’s website at www.apprisen.com.

Views expressed are the personal views of the author, and do not represent the views of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, its employees, its members, or its clients.

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