Your online life involves many threats to your identity and your privacy. If this information ever falls into the wrong hands, you'll be scrambling to rebuild what the scammers break. Fortunately, the following are a few ways you can avoid these problems before they arise.
1. Protect Your PasswordsWhere do you keep your passwords? If the answer involves anywhere online, you need to stop doing it and immediately change the passwords you have inadvertently put up for public display. Things like your spouse's name backwards or the year of your wedding are not good enough passwords.
Remember to create unique passwords, avoiding words that are easy for modern hacking softwares to guess. Often an ordinary computer running password cracking software can break a password in a matter of minutes, so again, be sure to create passwords that are complex enough to discourage hackers from continuing their efforts.
2. Dangerous DownloadsWhen you download a file or program, there is a chance it will come "piggybacked" with a virus. The less reputable the site you download the file or program from, the higher the likelihood there is a virus attached to it. Downloading pirated music, movies, or games is oftentimes enough to open your computer to this modern version of the Trojan Horse.
3. Carefully Review Your InformationHow often do you review your bank and brokerage statements and credit history? If the answer isn't at least once per year for credit-relevant and brokerage accounts, and every month for bank statements, you're not staying on top of your finances.
Someone else is definitely on top of this information, but it likely isn't someone you can trust. Scammers prey on people who let things slide, often taking a few cents or a few dollars out of an account to see if you'll notice. If you do and report it, these thefts tend to stop.
4. Suspicious E-mailsHow often have you won an exotic lottery or been chosen by someone from a different country — though never by name — as the best person to transfer large sums of money into your account? Hopefully you understood immediately that these were just scams designed to get your account information and to extort as much cash as the scammers could swindle you out of.
Often, opening these kinds of messages can transfer viruses to your computer or phone. Don't open any e-mails with an odd subject line, it's more than likely a scam.
5. Install Trustworthy Software and Ask for HelpWhen Michael Fertik founded Reputation.com, he recognized that software wasn't always enough to protect a person's identity. While installing and updating antivirus and firewall programs is an important part of security, you may also want to use an extra set of eyes to keep your identity secure and protected against theft or defamation.
Protecting your online security and privacy isn't easy. Remaining proactive and diligent will go a long way to ensuring you online identity and important documents remain safe and secure.