privacy online

With news of the data breach at Home Depot, consumers may feel more vulnerable than ever. In the past year, a number of widely known companies, like Target, have been targed for identity theft. As a result, thousands of credit card numbers have been stolen. This puts frequent guests of the store at risk for fraud. While shopping, we may not feel safe giving out our personal information. If a giant company, like Home Depot or Target, can be hacked, where can we shop? There aren’t yet perfect answers to this question. However, we can take extra steps to be cautious about our online banking and personal information.

We seem to post everything online now. We post our pictures, birthdays, resumes, and purchases. Nothing seems to be off-limits in the digital world. Social media isn’t much of a privacy protector for users. Others can readily hack and see our posts and photos. We can’t expect much of our social media accounts. However, there are steps that we can take online to prevent identity theft. If we work to be cautious users, we may avoid the unwanted drama of fraud.

1. Don’t post your full birthday online. You can put the month and day, but not the year. Hackers will have an easier time if they know when you were born. Same goes for common password questions, including things like your brother’s middle name, you mom’s maiden name, the first street you lived on, or the name of your elementary school.

2. Change your passwords regularly. If you maintain the same passwords for years, they’ll most likely be hacked. Change them on a frequent basis, such as every six months, to avoid tempting identity thieves.

3. Strengthen your passwords. Passwords shouldn’t be obvious to your close friends, let alone hackers. Include a series of symbols, letters, and numbers while creating them. Strong passwords will be much harder to break. Never store the passwords online either. Try instead to memorize them. 

4. Use different passwords. If the same password is connected to your email address, once hackers figure out your password, they will be able to use it anywhere. By using different passwords for each account, you will protect your privacy.

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5. Monitor your bank accounts and credit score. Get mobile alerts on your bank account and FICO credit score in case there is suspicious activity. The sooner you catch fraud, the easier it will be to fix the situation.

Have you ever been hacked or had your information stolen? What could you have done differently?