December is Identity Theft Protection Awareness Month and we’re taking this month to share some ways you can help keep your identity safe.
In 2022 alone, the Federal Trade Commission received 1.1 million reports of identity theft.1 Identity theft can happen in a number of ways: in-person, online, through email or over the phone. However it occurs, identity theft affects a large number of people per year.
Let’s learn about how you can protect your identity and sensitive information online and in-person.
Tip #1: Don’t Assume Your Identity Will Never Get Stolen
Even if you're really cautious about your personal info, don't think you're invincible against identity theft. A recent report says around 33% of Americans have faced at least one attempt.2 And that number only counts reported cases – there might be others that went unnoticed or unreported.
In today's data-packed world, total safety is impossible, but knowing the fraud risk emphasizes how crucial it is to follow cybersecurity tips like these.
Tip #2: Use a VPN When Using Wi-Fi to Increase Data Protection
A virtual private network, or VPN, is a handy tool for securing your web browsing on Wi-Fi. It establishes an encrypted link between your computer and the VPN server, ensuring all your internet activity travels through this secure connection. Most VPN servers use multiple layers of encryption for extra protection. Setting up a VPN is a breeze, and you can do it on both your computer and mobile device. The Verge, a well-known tech publication, offers detailed instructions you can follow.VPNs also hide your IP address, which reveals your location and computer details, adding an extra layer of privacy.
Tip #3: Don’t Share Your Passwords or Use the Same Password for Multiple Sites
Common sense, but it's crucial: never share your passwords, especially with strangers. If you have to, opt for a password manager like Keeper or LastPass—they let you share access without revealing the actual password. Alternatively, change your password right after sharing.
Also, avoid using the same password across different sites, especially if it includes personal info like your address, kids' names, or pet names.
Craft a robust password: make it long, mix upper- and lowercase letters, toss in numbers and symbols, keep it unrelated to your personal info, and skip dictionary words.
Tip #4: Sign Up for 2-Factor Authentication
Besides making a robust password, always opt for two-factor authentication whenever available. Two-factor authentication (2FA) adds an extra shield to your login details. Typically, you enter your password and then use a second method to confirm it's you. For instance, Google might send a unique code to your phone number or backup email to ensure it's genuinely you logging in.
Tip #5: Be Careful About How Much Personal Information You Share on Social Media
In the age of oversharing on social media, it's crucial to be mindful of the personal information you disclose online. Hackers can exploit details from your Facebook or Instagram profiles to breach other accounts. Avoid sharing your address, phone number, photos of official IDs (like passport or driver's license), or your complete date of birth on social platforms.
Given our highly interconnected world, safeguarding your information, as well as your family's, is more critical than ever. By adopting these precautions and staying vigilant online, you can reduce the risk of falling prey to the rising number of identity theft scams.