Thanks to social media, people are sharing more information about themselves than ever before. But that openness also puts them at risk for #identitytheft. Untangling the repercussions of identity theft can take more than a year and cause a lot of headaches. Identity theft isn’t going away any time soon, but that doesn’t mean you have to be a victim. There are steps you can take to reduce your risk, and it all starts with being discriminating about who you share your information with.

  1. Learn to recognize Phishing scams.  what is identity theft?This email-based scam where bad actors pose as a real organization, agency or company, prompting the reader to enter personal information such as addresses, credit card numbers or bank account numbers. If something seems strange in an email or the message requests private data, don’t click on the links.
  2. Website security covers many areas, it means that the website utilizes SSL, which stands for Secure Socket Layer, a standard security technology that establishes an encrypted connection between a web server and a browser, with the URL being prefixed with “HTTPS” rather than the standard and unsecure “HTTP” (with that extra “S” standing for “Secure”).
  3. Make secure passwords. It may be annoying when a website requires you to have a password of a certain character length with numbers and capitals included, but this is really for your own safety. Protect the password to your email as closely as you would the password to your online banking because a lot of your information is interconnected. Avoid using digits from your social security number, credit card number or bank account number in passwords even though they are easily remembered. The more obscure and complex the password, the safer you’ll feel.
  4. Carefully manage privacy settings. Seemingly harmless information like an address or a phone number can make you a target for #cybercriminals who can follow the trail of that information to exploit you. Often a single piece of information like a full legal name and DOB may be all someone needs to find more secure info that they can use to their advantage.  If your children have social media pages, make sure that they are using strict privacy settings and that they are aware of the dangers of revealing personal and detailed information online.
  5. Use a payment service provider. Dropping your credit or debit cards details at every online retailer will eventually come back to haunt you. There are many niche sites that simply do not have adequate security around them. Hackers can follow your digital footprint and steal your card info from sites with weak security. If the site itself is compromised, then #hackers may steal your card information along with other customers.

Avoid this calamity by using a payment service provider like Google Checkout or PayPal. These services allow you to enter your card info on their platform and then shop at a wide variety of retailers. You can then use your payment service to checkout, rather than your card.

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