Protect Your Identity Online by Taking These Important Steps

Protect Identity Theft

It's hard to keep your identity perfectly secure on the internet. Almost everyone has had their data compromised at one time or another — whether it's through a phishing scam, a hacked website, or even personal data breaches from store credit card records. Far from just being inconvenient, having your identity stolen can seriously mess things up for you. You might find multiple accounts open under your social security number, or even end up the subject of an investigation if someone commits a crime using your identity.

Roman’s cyber unit is capable of performing an assessment of computer systems, software, and networks to ensure they are not vulnerable to any current threats. Here are what Roman’s skilled engineers want you to know to help keep your identity safe.

Do you know what you've made available?

Most people underestimate the amount of their data that exists online. It's far more than just emails and passwords — your address, photos of your home, estimated income, bank accounts, and even medical records are online in some form. While good internet security should theoretically keep all of this data out of the hands of thieves, personal data breaches complicate matters. Nothing is ever perfectly secure, and one data leak from an unlikely source may be enough to expose your entire life online.

The dark web wants your information.

The dark web is a portion of the internet that conventional search engines won't point you to. While not all of the dark web is for nefarious purposes -- it's commonly used by law enforcement, protesters, and whistleblowers, for example — it is a place where anyone can easily buy other people's personal information using untraceable cryptocurrencies. A buyer can get anything they like, from names, to addresses, to bank account numbers, to social security numbers. Financial data, logins, and passwords appear for sale very frequently.

How can you keep yourself safe?

1. Use a dummy email account. Sometimes, it isn't the websites we use most that end up accidentally spreading our information across the web. Every time you've ever had to enter an email address and create a login for a service you used once and never again, you've created a way for thieves to find your information in personal data breaches. Set up an email account that you use only for situations like this, to keep your regular email address from ending up anywhere you don't want it to be. As an added benefit, you'll end up with less spam clogging up your inbox.

2. Never use the same password twice. The easiest way for a thief to get access to a person's information -- from email, to bank accounts, to social media — is to figure out just one of their passwords. All too many people use the same password, or one with very minor variations, across the entire internet. While this might be easier than having to keep track of multiple passwords, it also makes it a lot easier for hackers to commit online identity theft. While this won't protect your login credentials on a site if that specific site is compromised, it'll minimize the damage overall.

3. Install an antivirus software. Getting a computer virus doesn't always involve downloading a suspicious-looking file. Viruses can make their way onto otherwise-innocuous websites through a variety of ways, one of which is ad space. This means that you might not be able to tell if one of your favorite sites is dangerous just by looking at it. Install a good antivirus program, schedule regular scans, and make sure your virus library is kept up to date.

4. Don't get phished. Phishing scams get personal information in the simplest way imaginable: they ask for it. You might get a phone call from someone claiming to be from your bank, asking for your account number. You might click on a link that looks official, only to discover that you just entered your login information into a phisher's database. Never click on a link someone has sent you, always make sure any emails you receive are from an official source, double-check every URL you visit, and never give personal information out over the phone to anyone who calls you.

5. Lock down your social media. Be careful what you share. Keep your social media's privacy settings confined to people you know, and make sure you aren't sharing your posts to the public at large. While it might seem harmless, sharing photos of yourself, your home, and locations where you frequently go can make you a target for all kinds of thieves -- not just identity thieves. Seasoned identity thieves can scour your posts for the information they need to answer security questions, granting them access to your online accounts.

6. Be careful where you buy. Avoid making online purchases through companies you don't know well, and never buy from one that isn't secure. A website with a security certificate should have an "https://" address, which means that your information will be received over a secure, encrypted connection. If it doesn't, don't enter your personal or financial information.

7. Don't save information on portable devices. Phones and laptops get stolen all of the time, and all an identity thief may need to do is turn them on. Many people save passwords and other information to their devices for convenience's sake, but what's convenient for the user is convenient for a thief. Don't use automatic login features, log off your devices after use, and don't save logins, passwords, and other sensitive information. The internet is a fast, easy way to do business, but that also makes it a fast, easy way for thieves to get their hands on your information. Like most other criminals, online identity thieves prefer "soft targets" — ones that offer a high yield with low effort. Practice good online security, and you'll be able to keep any damage to a minimum. By using a dummy email on website, you only visit once, never using the same password across two sites, using good antivirus protection, and keeping your information as private as possible, you'll be able to protect yourself better from online identity theft.

Roman helps its clients stay ahead of dangerous cyber threats by safeguarding their sensitive personal and business information. Roman’s in-house cyber unit provides protective digital measures while expert analysts diligently screen for sensitive customer information that may surface on the dark web.

If you’re interested in learning more about how Roman can help protect your sensitive data from online predators and cyber-attacks, contact Roman by calling us at 800.422.9032 or by sending us an email.

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