10 Musts in Protecting Your Identity

Identity theft is the fastest growing crime in the United States. Criminals are using information from your social networks to poach your identity. Below are 10 tips to help prevent you from becoming a victim.

1. Be careful with under the door menus

Whether you are in a hotel or your own home, be wary of menus slipped under your door Identity thieves often use these fake menus to capture your personal and credit card information when you call the restaurant. To assure your safety, go online or contact the hotel’s front desk to place an order.

2. Your Smartphone is vulnerable

Make sure your computers, mobile devices and wearable technology have the latest security software. Frequently update this software.

3. Do not use public Wi-Fi for financial transactions

If you are using public Wi-Fi in a hotel or restaurant, do not go online for banking, stock trades or other important financial matters. Perform these transactions in the safety of your home. Similarly, do not use publicly shared computers for such transactions. For example, if you are in the library, do not access your investment account. Identity thieves have “keylogging” software on these machines, which track everything you push on the keyboard.

4. Beware of free Wi-Fi

Identify thieves often name Wi-Fi hotspots as official connections for various locations, including hotels, airports or restaurants. For example, the hotspot might be named “freewifi” or “hotelwifi.” If you use these unsecured networks, you are at risk. If you are uncertain which is the correct Wi-Fi, simply ask an airport official, desk clerk or waitress.

5. Avoid phishing scams

Should you receive solicitations from companies, banks or other organizations, do not click on the links. It is much safer to go directly to the home pages of these sites to find the specific offer or issue. If you choose to click through, make certain that the URL is correct. Example: www.bankofamerica.com not http://bankofamerica.randomsite.com. Phishers develop fake company web pages and fake company emails presenting themselves as reputable companies. The phishers are now in position to steal your password and personal information.

Be very suspicious of requests for your personal information from anyone including your email provider. Triple-check to ensure the request is legitimate before taking any action. Your email provider will rarely send you a message, so be alert when you receive one and make sure it is not a phishing scam.

6. Set up a password for online card use

Do not post important personal information on social networks. Choose personal security questions that cannot be answered by your Facebook information.

7. Be careful on online auctions, such as eBay

Pay the seller directly with a credit card so you can dispute the charges if the merchandise does not arrive or is misrepresented. Whenever possible, avoid paying by check or money order.

8. Destroy digital data

When you sell, trade or dispose of a computer system, a hard drive, a recordable CD, backup tape or DVD, you must take precautions to ensure the data is completely and irrevocably destroyed. Deleting the data or reformatting the hard drive is insufficient. Anyone with technological savvy can undelete files or recover data from a formatted drive. Use a product like ShredXP to ensure that data on hard drives is completely destroyed. Physically destroy CD, DVD or tape media by breaking or shattering before disposal or use shredders that are specifically designed for this purpose.

9. Use strong passwords for all online accounts

Use a strong password that includes symbols, numbers and upper and lower case letters to protect your identity. If you have a hard time making up a strong password, try using a mnemonic device. For example, “I was born at New York Mercy Hospital in 1975” becomes “[email protected]” Vary your passwords because thieves have easier access to your personal information when you use the same password for each account.

10. Limit the personal information you share online

The number of available social networks increases daily and your personal information is available to anyone. Protect yourself from identity thieves by not posting personal information, especially your address, phone numbers, SSN, birth date or birthplace.

About the Author: Erik Qualman

Often called a Digital Dale Carnegie and The Tony Robbins of Tech, Erik Qualman is a #1 Best Selling Author and Motivational Keynote Speaker that has spoken in 49 countries.

His Socialnomics work has been featured on 60 Minutes to the Wall Street Journal and used by the National Guard to NASA. His book Digital Leader propelled him to be voted the 2nd Most Likeable Author in the World behind Harry Potter's J.K. Rowling. Qualman is a sitting professor at Harvard & MIT's edX labs.

His latest book What Happens in Vegas Stays on YouTube is a Pulitzer Prize nominated work.
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