The past few years have seen a huge surge in data breaches and identity theft. In addition to major breaches of high-profile corporations, a study from Javelin Strategy & Research reported that a new case of identity fraud occurred every two seconds in the United States last year.
Milke Sullivan, a spokesperson with Take Charge America offers the following tips to help consumers ensure their financial safety online:
- Keep personal information personal: Don’t give out your Social Security number or financial account details to an organization you don’t trust – and never to someone who calls or emails you to verify your personal information. Financial institutions don’t solicit this information in an unsecured manner.
- Safeguard your computer. Install a personal firewall and an up-to-date software security package.
- Don’t click on links from unknown sources. Clicking on a suspicious link in a text or email may install malware on your device, giving thieves access to sensitive information stored there.
- Be careful where you log on. Don’t access financial accounts or shop online when using unsecured Wi-Fi. A secure website will start with “https://” instead of “http://,” and your status bar will show a padlock or key icon. When you’re done, log out completely.
- Don’t be too social. Be careful about what you post on your social networks to protect yourself from “doxing,” a tactic hackers use to gather personal information from a variety of Internet sources in order to hijack identities.
- Be smart with your smart phone. Protect it with a passcode that’s difficult to guess. If you’re in the market for an upgrade, wipe your old device before turning it in or selling it to someone else.
- Take advantage of alerts. Opt-in to text or email alerts when your bank account reaches a minimum balance, purchases exceed a predetermined limit, or your card is used in an unusual locale.
- Get a free credit report. Review your report each year at annualcreditreport.com to ensure your credit history is accurate.
- Report fraud immediately. If you suspect your identity has been stolen, contact the Federal Trade Commission or call 1-877-IDTHEFT.