Cybercrime is on the rise and its threat to your digital identity and financial stability is a common and costly mistake. In 2017, the number of identity fraud victims increased by one million since the previous year. Equally alarming is the number of data breaches in 2017 as 1,579 breaches exposed 179 million records last year, resulting in even more digital identity theft.
One reason for the rising cybercrime is how many individuals unwittingly make them an easy target. By dismissing the importance of protecting personal information, you could suffer major consequences.
While there’s certainly good reason to be worried, you can protect yourself, your loved ones, and your assets. Follow these cybercrime prevention tips:
TIP 1: Change passwords regularly
Getting into the habit of frequently changing passwords is an excellent prevention tool. Although it seems like a hassle, regularly updating them and turning on two-factor authentication on every site drastically minimizes your risk for digital identity theft. Manage passwords by utilizing a password management program that produces complex passwords, stores them in the cloud, and allows you to invoke your password even from a compromised system. Since these programs typically rely on a master password, choose a lengthy one that’s interspersed with symbols.
Tip 2: Scrutinize your online social circle
Remain vigilant on social media sites by only accepting friend requests from people you know. People are not always who they claim to be, and Facebook breeds a large amount of this type of fraudulent activity. In 2017 Facebook’s own research estimated that as many as 270 million of its users are fake or clone accounts. Users on LinkedIn, the popular professional networking site, are also susceptible to privacy violations. Take extra precautions on social media sites by updating your privacy settings so that you share your content only with people you have accepted as friends.
Tip 3: Freeze or lock your credit
Freezing your credit score with the three credit-reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, and Transunion) makes it more difficult for identity thieves to open new accounts in your name, because most creditors need to see your credit report before they approve a new account. By restricting access to your records, you alone have the ability to gain access to your records. All three credit bureaus even offer a free app that allows you to lock or unlock your credit from your smartphone.
Tip 4: Watch for hidden vulnerabilities
Constantly evolving technologies present exciting opportunities, but all digital platforms pose risks if we aren’t careful protecting our information. A few extra steps can go a long way in providing security:
- Turn on ‘encryption’ on all computers so that data can’t be easily compromised if the device is stolen. Encrypting all email and messaging also means that only the sender and receiver can read the information.
- Protect your smartphone with hard-to-guess passwords, turn off Bluetooth when you aren’t using it, be careful when using public Wi-Fi and when downloading free apps that might contain malware.
- Keep your computer’s operating system, browser, anti-virus, and other critical software up to date.
- Consider dedicating one computer just to banking and tax activity, with no other Internet browsing or activity, to limit risk of infection.
Ultimately, there are no guarantees, and we are all vulnerable to digital identity theft. Our best defense is safeguarding ourselves with effective anti-theft tools that will dissuade hackers. Contact a HUB specialist to learn more about how to protect yourself, including your insurance options.