How Can You Protect Your Personal Information Online?

Learn to Recognize Imposters 

There are countless internet scams to pirate people’s personal data and steal financial information. Many of them you may be quite familiar with, such as email and telephone scams, and you likely know that you should never provide your personal or financial information to someone that you don’t know and trust. But what about someone contacting you in the guise of a company that you actually have business with? 

Often, thieves will monitor your email correspondence, and intercept these emails, then contact you by pretending to work for a company that you deal with regularly. For example, a scam artist might email you pretending to be from your utility company, claiming that your automatic payment was rejected, and they need you to verify your payment information. Since you know the company, you might respond without thought and provide the critical financial data. The next thing you know, your credit card number has been stolen and the thief has run up an enormous tab. 

Any time you are contacted via email and asked for financial information, it is always best to reach out to the business directly by calling the customer service number listed online or on your last statement. And if you’re ever contacted by someone from a company you’re not familiar with, don’t click on any links in the email; look up the business’s name online and call them directly, or delete the message altogether. 

Ensure Your Data Is Encrypted 

In our online world, there will be numerous instances where sensitive data needs to be entered and submitted through a website. Whether you’re registering for online courses or making a purchase, there are times when it is necessary for you to share credit card numbers, and even Social Security numbers. Before you submit your information, however, always check to make sure there is a “lock” icon on the status bar of your internet browser. This indicates that the information you’re transmitting will be encrypted and protected once you submit it. 

Don’t Overshare on Social Media 

Social media is a great way to share your life with friends and family around the world; but if you’re not careful, you can inadvertently share vital information with identity thieves. For example, let’s say you post all about the family reunion you attended this weekend with your mother’s side of the family. “Had a great time at the Smith family reunion!” you say. You’ve just shared your mother’s maiden name—a common security question for financial institutions. 

While you can still share your life with those you care about, be sure that your profile is limited to select individuals whenever possible. For social media platforms that are available to the public, such as Twitter, always think twice about the things that you’re posting, and never post sensitive data or personal contact information. 

Be Wary of Public Wi-Fi 

From fast food restaurants to airports and hotels, there are many institutions that offer free public Wi-Fi. It’s an incredibly useful and convenient amenity, but you should always be cautious about how you use these networks. They are significantly less secure than your private Wi-Fi, and some data that you send over the internet can be viewed by others. 

The internet is an incredible way to connect and share with others—but it can also be a way for identity thieves to connect with and steal your personal information. Always use caution when you’re online, and be wary of submitting any sensitive information to a source you don’t completely trust. When in doubt, it’s always best to keep your information to yourself. 

To learn more about how we protect your personal information and financial data, feel free to contact one of our Provo accountants at The Accounting Guys.

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