Protecting Yourself (And your Credit Score) from Identity Theft Online

No matter how much you know about technology or the amount of time you’ve spent on the Internet, you’re always at risk of identity theft.  Even if you do everything perfectly and adopt a super-conscious outlook on security, there are variables that remain out of your control that you’re constantly at risk of becoming victim to.

Identity theft isn’t a joke either.  If it’s never happened to you, it may be easy to brush it off and move on with your life, but the truth is that identity theft is common and potentially life-damaging.   The Federal Trade Commission estimates that 9 million Americans suffer from identity theft a year.  So, it’s best to take precaution when you’re online, but how?

Identity theft - artistic impression. Image credit: Mohammed Hassan via Pxhere, CC0 Public DomainIdentity theft - artistic impression. Image credit: Mohammed Hassan via Pxhere, CC0 Public Domain

Identity theft – artistic impression. Image credit: Mohammed Hassan via Pxhere, CC0 Public Domain

1.   Use a VPN

If you find yourself going out a lot, you may be used to using public networks on your phone or laptop.  While public networks are useful and convenient, they are public.  Anyone can access them just like you did, and this can lead to security issues that you may not have even thought about while using the network.

On an unsecure network, hackers can easily start searching for data transfers on the network.  Did you just log into your bank account on that public network?  That hacker can easily intercept that data from the network and decrypt it.  Now your bank information is out there for anyone to use, putting your identity on the edge of theft.

If you want to keep using public networks without the stress of identity theft, you can use software that protects your data like VPNs.  A Windows VPN hides and encrypts your information as it travels through a network, keeping your data away from any onlookers that may be peeking on the network.

2.   Never Hand Out Information

While it may seem like a trivial tip, many users share too much information on websites.  It’s not uncommon to be on LinkedIn and be reading through someone’s profile, only for them to spill their guts on everything they’ve done in life, from name to address to their mother’s maiden name.  Exaggerating, but you get the point.

If you’re on social media or use the Internet for your job, you will want to refrain from sharing too much about yourself.  There’s no reason that someone on Instagram needs to know your real-life address or your full name.  This information being public can only negatively affect you, so tread carefully.

3.   Use a Credit-Monitoring Service

Staying on top of your credit reports is an important step in staying secure, but it’s easy to forget about.  Plus, who wants to buy or ask for their reports every month?

Fortunately, many banks or credit unions offer credit monitoring services that keep watch on your credit score and activity that helps (or hinders) it.  For example, the credit monitoring service will show what accounts have been opened in the past year, how much you’ve spent, etc.  This is all-around useful but is especially useful when concerning identity theft.  Worse still, there is also a risk of running into free credit monitoring scams, many of which are dangerous security and privacy breaches that have victimized millions of users over the years.

The main draw of a credit-monitoring service is that it will alert you when any suspicious activity takes place.  This includes immediate notifications to your e-mail or phone.  Using one is a no-brainer, and they’re free to use.


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