10 Ways to Protect Your Online Identity

By: Jeremy Biberdorf

November 23, 2015

10 Ways to Protect Your Online Identity

The safety of personal identity and information is a growing concern. As identity theft techniques become more sophisticated, so must our methods of staying secure. Because this information can encompass your finances, your location, your activities, and your communications, it’s very important to make it inaccessible to prying eyes. If your online identity has been compromised lately, or if you just want to keep safe, here are 10 of the best ways you can protect your identity online.

1. Keep Your Social Media Profiles Free of Personal Information.

You’ve got to be especially judicious about this. For those who would seek to exploit your identity, your Facebook account is a gold mine of personal information. Keep the details to a minimum – no phone number, no street address, no information about your kids’ schools, and no frequent posts about when you are away from home. Make this password a good one, and change it once every few months.

2. Make Sure Your Privacy Settings are Actually Private.

Change your privacy settings to “friends only”. This way, people searching for you can’t see your posts and personal information in the search results.

3. Make Complex Passwords, and Keep Them Safe.

This is a pain, but it’s worth the trouble. Every site that you log into keeps some of your personal information, some more than others. If someone is able to get into one of your accounts, they can use information they learn there to get past your more difficult passwords. Some people just get in by finding answers to your security settings. Pick security question answers that only you know (i.e. Q: What is your mother’s maiden name? A: Count Grisnach). Make your passwords 15 characters or more, including numbers, letters, and symbols. In the past I have memorized one string of nonsense characters, changing the first letter according to the name of the site I am using. I don’t write down the password or tell anyone else. This is a solution I am comfortable with. You may want a truly unique password for every site. That is the safest way.

4.  Use diverse passwords.

Ideally, each password will be unique and complex, changed once a quarter. Only you can know how important this is to you, but remember your logins are all interconnected. If I had to prioritize which access points to make the most secure, I would choose email and social media. You email correspondences contain so much personal information, including other passwords and login information, not to mention numerous personal details you probably don’t want just anyone to know.

Ideally, each password will be unique and complex, changed once a quarter. Only you can know how important this is to you, but remember your logins are all interconnected. If I had to prioritize which access points to make the most secure, I would choose email and social media. You email correspondences contain so much personal information, including other passwords and login information, not to mention numerous personal details you probably don’t want just anyone to know.

5. Make the most of your phone’s privacy settings.

Turn your GPS off unless you need it on. It may seem far-fetched, but home break-ins have occurred because people have been publicly “away” and trackable on GPS.

6. Ignore “phishing” emails.

Never provide passwords or account information in response to phishy emails, even if they appear to be sent from your bank or other institution. Legitimate organizations don’t communicate this way.

7. Keep all communications secure.

Make sure your WIFI is password protected. When sending emails that you wouldn’t want others to see, send them encrypted. Gmail has extensions for this. Google it if you don’t know how.

8. Look for the “S” in https://.

The “S” stands for secure. Only make financial transactions with secure sites. This is an easy way to know.

9. Familiarize yourself with your bank statements.

Sometimes this is the only way to catch illicit purchases made in your name. Caught quickly, these transactions can often be reversed and your money returned. Many banks will notice these before you do, and notify you in time, but it’s best to stay up to date yourself. At the very least, you may notice monthly payments for services you no longer use, and other payments you make that you were unaware of.

10. Pay attention to your junk mail.

Do you receive lots of offers for pre-approved credit cards? Your financial information may be too accessible to others, even if no specific card company is a threat. Talk to your bank about the security of your financial information.

If you do these 10 things, your online identity will be much more secure than most. Part of being secure online is just staying ahead of the game. By making your passwords more difficult to break than most, you are making yourself a less obvious target. I hope identity theft is never a problem for you, but if it is you can use these methods to make yourself secure again.

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About the Author:

Jeremy Biberdorf is the founder of Modest Money. After working many years in the website marketing industry, he decided to take on blogging full time and also get his finances headed in the right direction. Also check out his contributions to Equities.com and Benzinga.

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