The best way to avoid the headache of hours on the phone with your bank? Protect your identity. It seems simple – be careful who you give your social security number to, regularly monitor your checking and savings accounts and use a shredder for old bills and bank statements. But according to Javelin Strategy and Research, 12.6 million people in the United States were victims of identity fraud in 2012.
Many people don’t think about the importance of protecting their identities online. It can be easy for a thief to steal your identity without ever coming in contact with you.
Viruses can allow hackers to gather all your information – name, address, social security number, bank account information –from your computer. In order to protect your identity online, you must protect your computer against viruses.
Follow these three tips to protect your identity online and protect your computer against viruses:
Use secure passwords
Ever used the word “password” as your password? Or maybe one of your children’s names or your home address?
Every single password, whether it’s for your junk e-mail or your online banking account, needs to be strong and original. A strong password will greatly reduce the chances of a hacker getting into your accounts and stealing your identity. To create a strong password, do the following:
- Make your password at least eight characters long
- Use a combination of numbers, letters and symbols
- Never use your name, address, birthday or names of family members and close friends
- If the password is case sensitive, use both uppercase and lowercase letters
Don’t open e-mails from unfamiliar addresses
If you ever receive an e-mail from an address you don’t recognize, do not open it. Send it directly to the spam or trash folder – the worst thing you can do is open and reply.
If you do recognize the e-mail address, make sure not to open any unfamiliar links or attachments in the message. Oftentimes, a person will get a virus and the virus will be sent to his or her address book via e-mail. If you aren’t sure whether the link or attachment is virus-free, simply shoot them an e-mail back and ask about what they sent.
Update your antivirus software
A step before this – make sure you have antivirus software installed on your computer. Some people think the previous two steps are enough to protect against viruses, but they’re not! This software is important to have because it protects against viruses and can detect and remove them. Once you have reliable antivirus software on your computer, make sure you update it regularly in order to be protected from both old and new viruses.