How can I protect my personal information online?

The Internet has become an integral part of our daily lives, but you might ask yourself, “How can I protect my personal information online?” Whether you’re paying your bills or following the news, passwords are one of the most important safeguards to protect your personal information on the Internet. For maximum security, choose passwords of at least six characters that contain both letters and numbers. Avoid passwords that can be easily guessed, such as your child’s name, birthday, or phone number. Don’t use the same password for more than one website and get in the habit of changing your passwords every two or three months to protect your personal data online.

A login interface for an online account.

When checking your email, learn to recognize the signs of phishing scams. “Phishing” occurs when someone creates an email asking for your personal information that appears to be from a bank or some other type of well-known company. Often, they will ask you to verify your Social Security number or other important personal information online to prevent your account from being closed. If you click on the link in the message, you will be directed to a “spoofed” or fake version of a trusted website. To protect your personal data online, always copy and paste web addresses into your browser window and call the company directly if asked to provide personal information via email.

Users should check a website’s website URL to make sure it is secure before entering any personal information.

If you like shopping online, be careful when doing business with unknown retailers. Many unsuspecting shoppers have had their personal information stolen as a result of online shopping scams. Look for stores that have the Better Business Bureau Online seal of approval. Reputable companies should also offer package tracking and insurance to ensure your merchandise is safely delivered. Do not provide more information than is actually necessary to complete your purchase; there is no legitimate reason for a store to need your Social Security number or your mother’s maiden name if you are simply trying to buy a birthday present for your spouse. If you are concerned about purchasing from a specific website, call their customer service department to ask how you can better protect your personal information online with their website.

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Online purchases should only be made on trusted sites.

Blogs and personal websites provide new ways for thieves to steal your personal information online. Even seemingly innocent references to your friends, family, or workplace can provide criminals with the details they need to steal your identity. For maximum security, refer to people only by nicknames and think twice about the content of the photos you decide to post.

Resisting the temptation to act impulsively with special offers can help you avoid online credit card fraud.

Of course, software developers are continually looking for new ways to help you protect your personal information online. Spam filters and phishing filters are being developed to help keep email safe, while the latest version of Internet Explorer contains several enhanced security features. For this reason, it is important to regularly check your web browser and virus protection software for updates.

For maximum security, people should think twice about the content of any photos they choose to post.

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