How to Protect Your Personal Data

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If you own a car or home, you protect those assets with insurance. But what about your personal and financial data? How do you protect those? From online shopping to banking to dating, people are sharing a lot of their personal and financial information on the internet. Taking commonsense precautions can minimize the risk of fraudulent access to sensitive information. Here’s what to do.

Online Shopping

Anyone who has ever dealt with long lines and crowded parking lots at a shopping center can appreciate online shopping. What’s more convenient than surfing the web, clicking a few keys and having purchases delivered to the front door? But online shopping is just as convenient for fraud artists and identity thieves. Exercising caution and due diligence is essential for staying safe while shopping online.

Stick with reputable vendors and well-known shopping apps. When shopping through a browser, ensure that the Uniform Resource Locator (URL) begins with “https” rather than “http.” Look for a closed padlock icon on the website to indicate that information is being encrypted. Use a credit card, prepaid card or a debit card that is not directly linked to a bank account when shopping online. Check bank and credit card statements regularly and report discrepancies immediately to limit potential liability for fraudulent activity.

Online Banking

Between ATMs, banking apps and online banking, there is hardly any reason to visit an actual bank branch anymore. However, online banking represents an especially tempting target for identity thieves and fraud artists. Nearly all banking websites incorporate multiple safeguards, including encryption and password protection. In addition, consumers can further protect themselves by using a unique, strong password for banking sites; password managers can help keep multiple strong passwords safe. Enabling two-factor authentication is another excellent means of staying safe while banking online. Two-factor authentication makes it much more difficult to obtain unauthorized access to a bank account, even with a password.

A virtual private network (VPN) provides a measure of protection when connecting to a banking app or website through a Wi-Fi connection. However, it’s much safer to use a few data units when conducting mobile banking than Wi-Fi.

Online Dating

Online dating has moved out of the shadows and into the mainstream of 21st Century life. Nearly everyone from seniors to teens has tried online dating at least once. However, while the stigma has long been removed from online dating, there are still potential hazards involved, especially for women. Many online dating sites link profiles with users’ Facebook profiles, which contain personal information like phone numbers and even addresses. Limiting access to outside apps through Facebook privacy settings solves that problem. An alternative is to create a unique e-mail address from Hotmail, Gmail or a similar service and a VoIP phone number from Google Voice for dating apps and websites.

Everyday Online Safety Measures

It’s also important to practice commonsense precautions when accessing the internet through a computer or mobile device. Computer operating systems should be regularly updated; anti-virus, anti-malware and firewall software should also be installed and updated regularly.

When discarding computers, wipe hard drives clean by overwriting data through a low-level reformatting process. Better yet, remove hard drives and keep them or physically destroy them. Mobile devices should be restored to factory settings, and mobile subscriber identity mobile (SIM) cards should be removed.

In addition to the safety measures described above, investing in identity theft protection from Norton Lifelock makes shopping, banking and dating online safer. The money spent helps to keep personal and financial information protected — and provides added peace of mind.

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