How to Protect Your Identity when Shopping Online

How can you protect yourself while shopping online?

If you are like many people this year in America, you will be doing a portion (if not all) of your Christmas shopping online. If you shop online you know that it’s usually a very easy process, your package comes directly to your door, and you avoid the risk of being trampled by the Black Friday crowd. While you are limiting your risk of physical injury, you are actually exposing yourself to another risk, which is the risk of someone stealing your identity online. This has become a hot topic in today’s society where most business is now done in an online setting. Not only are we buying things online, but we are constantly interacting with friends and family online as well! Take this blog for instance, we here at Patterson Insurance are able to connect with current and future clients digitally. 


The ability to connect online can truly can be a great thing, but there is always the risk of being overexposed and having someone take advantage of that exposure. We are just as guilty as most people when it comes to overlooking things and not fully protecting ourselves online as best as we should. As a company we go to great lengths to protect our data along with clients data, but once we get home we tend to forget all of those security measures, as we’re sure many of you can relate. When you are in the comfort of your own home, many times you are not thinking of ways to protect your online identity. 


Tips to protect your Online Identity


  • Don’t confirm/click through emails even from “trusted” senders. 
  • Keep an eye on your credit report.
  • Protect your phone/tablet. 
  • Keep personal documents secured.
  • Be careful of what you share online. 
  • Create strong passwords and keep them updated.


How can you use these tips?


Don’t confirm/click through emails even from “trusted” senders. You may receive emails from your bank or other financial institution on occasion, but be aware of phishing scams that try to get you to click through their email with your secure passwords, social security numbers, dates of birth, and so on. Even if you trust the source, it may be a masked source trying to look like your bank or other trusted source. Your bank will never ask for this information over email, EVER, so if they do and you still feel like it is coming from your local bank, simply give them a call on the phone to confirm and give them the information over the phone. It’s always better to be safe than sorry! 


Keep an eye on your credit report. You don’t need to run your credit report every week, but you can get a credit “check up” at least once a year to make sure that there are no discrepancies on there that shouldn’t be. This will allow you to monitor your credit from a safe distance and make sure that you are the only one taking out any credit in your name. It’s also good to know roughly what your credit score if before you make any future large purchases, so it will actually serve two purposes when you check on it.  


Protect your phone/tablet. When using your phone or tablet, you will likely be downloading apps on them. Be sure to only download apps that are from reputable sources and also make sure that the applications don’t require any personal information to be shared or give them access to your personal information. You should also use the automatic locking option on your phone and tablet in case you would ever misplace either one. You want to be sure to protect your devices from being stolen as well, but setting the auto lock will definitely add another layer of protection. 


Keep personal documents secured. If you keep physical hard copies of your personal and financial information, be sure to keep them in a locked storage place and also be sure to shred and or burn the documents when you are ready to dispose of them. For instance, most people say that you are in the clear to get rid of your tax documents after seven years, but some people keep them much longer. If you store your personal information on your computer, be sure to use a firewall and anti-virus system on your PC. You should also make sure that your wifi is properly password protected. If you do all three of these things, you will be much safer when it comes to protecting your identity. 


Be careful of what you share online. With social media, it’s easy to put a lot of your personal information out there for the whole world to see, sometimes that can be good when you’re trying to boost your online presence and sometimes that can be very dangerous. There are a ton of social media sites out there including; Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and the list goes on. When you are using these sites try not to give out any personal identification information such as your social security number, your entire date of birth, your drivers license number, your address, and even your phone number. 

Create strong passwords and keep them updated. Creating a solid password can take some extra time, but it can go a long way. In the past, many people advocated for an easy to remember password and then they said to use different characters and numbers to throw off would be hackers. Both of these are true, but with the invention of hacking technology that can run through letters and characters line by line, like cracking a safe, you should also have some length to your password as well. To protect your password from people that are physically in your house, be sure not to have it on a sticky note right next to your PC (we’ve all done that at one time or another). Try to change your password often, and try not to use the same password for all of your financial accounts. Using these strategies should help keep your identity safe while you’re shopping online!

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