Protecting your identity online

  • Published
  • By Ryan Finnegan
  • 412th Test Wing Operations Security Program manager
With the internet ever evolving, it has become a great source of communication and a convenient tool. While there are many advantages in using the internet, like online shopping or making charitable donations, there are also countless numbers of unknown, lurking threats.

One of luxuries of the internet, and a great service for busy parents, is the ability to shop online and never step foot in a busy mall or store ever again. With this benefit come many vulnerabilities to your personal information and your bank account.

While shopping in person could be considered safer if you use your credit/debit card, big chain stores have long been a target of hackers trying to gain access your credit card information.

Increased cyber security efforts can reduce your chances of having your information stolen to a manageable risk.

The ever growing list of social media sites has also become a large part of societyl. These sites allow you to reach a broad market of friends and family along with followers, many of which you have never met. This allows you to connect to a greater global market with just a couple of keystrokes, capabilities that criminals have the same access too.

Being vigilant and doing your homework can save you, not only time from dealing with fraud, but the heartache of being ripped-off by a scam.

According to the National Criminal Justice Reference Center, in 2013 there were 2 million fraud and identity theft reports, 14 percent of which were identity theft related. Furthermore, in a 2007 report by the Federal Trade Commission, they estimate that "there were 48.7 million individual fraud transactions in 2005 and the average loss was $60 per transaction... This would put the total dollar loss to fraud at approximately $2.92 billion per year in the United States".

Being cautious and taking some simple steps can increase the protection of your personal information and your money.

While there are many different measures you can take this list of simple-to-implement steps is suggested by the Federal Trade Commission:

- Be alert of impersonators. Make sure you know who is getting your personal information.

- Safely dispose of personal information. Ensure you get rid of all your personal information off your computer before you get rid of it. A wipe utility program to wipe your hard drive is recommended. Also, shred your personal and banking information.

- Encrypt your data. Look for the lock in the status bar of your internet browser before sending personal or financial information.

- Don't over share on social media sites. Limit the amount of information you post on these sites to include your full name, address, birthdates, social security number or phone number.

- Avoid phishing emails. Do not open emails from unknown sources and never click on the links. These are often filled with virus or malware.

- Be cautious when using free WiFi. Do not send out personal information or conduct financial transactions at a coffee shop, library or other public place.

Criminals can range from sophisticated to very simplistic in nature but by taking the steps listed above you can better protect yourself and your money. Remain cautious of your daily activities and if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.  Watch your bank statements and check your credit report annually. If there are any suspicious charges report them. It is your money and your identity; make sure you keep both to yourself.