• Preventing identity theft

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5 Easy Ways to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

Do you make transactions that include your personal information? If you manage online banking, mobile payment apps, or simply pay for everyday items with a credit card, then you may be a hacker’s target. When you pay fees, open new lines of credit, or file your taxes online, your personal information could be vulnerable. But don’t worry, there are many ways to protect yourself. Take these 5 precautions and you can shield yourself from identity theft and other cyber threats:

1. Secure Hard-Copy Information

It’s not easy to juggle school, work, and home life, and sometimes things get disorganized. If you have schoolwork and other materials lying about, make sure they don’t mix with any personal information. Find a safe spot to keep papers like your birth certificate, social security number, and bank account information so that you do not accidently lose any of it among your assignments. Keep your personal ID in your wallet unless you are using it. Make sure your SSN isn’t used on your license or school ID. Never send this kind of information to anyone requesting it unless you can verify beyond a doubt that they are legitimate.

2. Avoid Public WiFi if Possible

How many times have you connected to the Internet in a coffee shop or used a library computer? Connecting to public WiFi can seem harmless. But what if you use your SSN to log in and retrieve financial aid statements via public WiFi? Hackers can place themselves between you and the destination of your SSN, intercepting it along the way. If public WiFi security is vulnerable enough, hackers can also use loopholes to install malware onto your device without you even knowing. Avoid websites that require personal information, disable file sharing, and only visit sites using HTTPS (a way to protect the integrity and confidentiality of data between your computer and the site).

3. Create Secure Passwords

It’s tempting for your password to be something familiar, especially when all your online accounts require one. Cyber threats count on you to use a password that is familiar and close to home, like a pet’s name or a loved one’s birthdate. Instead, create one that’s lengthy, ideally 12-15 characters, has a unique meaning to you, and is interspersed with numerals and symbols. You should also create separate, specific passwords for each and every account you have. If that sounds like hard work, you can use an online tool to generate and store all your passwords.

4. Subscribe to the Latest Software and Monitoring Services

Cyber security software can prevent identity theft or spot it quickly to help you take defensive action. Some software can be purchased outright, while others are by subscription (usually monthly or yearly), but that software is a worthwhile investment. Antivirus software will scan, identify, and evaluate potential threats. A virtual private network (VPN) will encrypt your IP addresses and Internet activity if you use a public network. Similarly, credit bureaus like Equifax, offer subscription credit monitoring services. For additional cost, Equifax will even monitor the other two credit bureaus TransUnion and Experian. Monitoring can flag if a lender requests access to your credit files, let you lock or unlock your credit files, alert you of possible fraud, and provide you with assistance for lost credit cards, licenses, insurance info, and passports.

5. Use Online Resources

There are many free resources that will help you protect and repair your credit. Government agencies like the Federal Trade Commission, Internal Revenue Service, and Justice Department offer free resources like e-books, slide decks, and video tutorials on ways to prevent or respond to identity theft.

Take these steps to keep your most valuable personal information safe from cyber threats. To secure yourself even more, read some other security tips Charter College has for you to avoid identity theft.