They joined the likes of Home Depot, Sony, and Target, who were hit by hackers in 2015.
As cybercriminals seek access to sensitive information such as credit card numbers, medical histories, income data, employment history and more, it leaves consumers feeling helpless to prevent digital data from falling into the wrong hands.
To help increase your knowledge (and potentially decrease your stress), the Federal Trade Commission outlines a number of identity theft protection tips to keep your personal information safe online and explains why each is important.
- Be alert to impersonators. If someone contacts you by phone or email asking for personal information, don’t supply it until you are confident of the person’s identity.
- Safely dispose of electronics, such as old computers and mobile devices. Before recycling or returning electronics, wipe the entire hard drive, and permanently delete all information.
- Encrypt your data. Look for the lock icon in your browser bar when using the internet before accessing personal or financial information.
- Keep passwords private. The FTC urges people to “use strong passwords with your laptop, credit, bank, and other accounts. Be creative – think of a special phrase and use the first letter of each word as your password. Substitute numbers for some words or letters.”
- Don’t overshare on social networking sites. Review your social networking privacy settings and be cognizant about sharing birthday, childhood street addresses, or other information you may have used to answer a password “challenge” question.
- Use security software. You know about that free anti-virus software and firewall your internet service provider offers? Use it. If they don’t offer it, buy it, set it up, and update your protections frequently.
- Avoid phishing emails. Emails from hackers can appear to be sent from legitimate businesses. Verify the identity of those sending you files before opening them and potentially compromising your passwords and other information.
- Be wise about Wi-Fi. Public wireless networks may be convenient, but they may also expose personal information. Unless absolutely necessary, avoid accessing financial and personal data from these networks. If you’re going to use public Wi-Fi, consider installing a virtual private network or use your device’s own data plan to protect your files and passwords.
- Lock up your mobile devices. Avoid using automatic logins and keep your mobile devices and laptops locked when not in use. Notify your data providers if your devices are lost or stolen, as you may be able to have the data wiped clean from a remote location.
- Read privacy policies. They can seem to be a never-ending stream of legalese, but they can also help you understand how a website, app, or program plans to use your data.
Keeping your personal information secure and protected against identity theft should be a top priority, especially when your finances are involved.