The Department of Homeland Security and the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) named October National Cyber Security Awareness Month (NCSAM) to engage and educate Americans about cyber security. If you’re wondering why we need a whole month devoted to this topic, consider these chilling statistics: hackers have exposed the personal information of 110 million Americans in the last 12 months alone, while 43 percent of businesses were victims of data breaches during this time. What’s more, one in six online consumers were duped into shopping at rogue sites and compromised financial and personal information as a result.
“From the many headlines of recent data breaches, it’s clear that our personal and financial information can be easily exposed in this digital age, so it’s more important than ever to monitor your credit for protection against fraud,” says Andrea Woroch, LendingTree’s consumer-savings expert.
Don’t become another statistic or victim of identity theft. Be #CyberAware and learn how to surf safely with these smart tips from Woroch.
6 Ways to Protect Yourself from Online Hackers
DO use unique passwords
It’s easier to use the same password for all your online accounts, but you’ll face a lower chance of identity theft by using unique codes. Additionally, don’t use obvious information, like your address, phone number, birth date, initials or even your dog’s name. Instead, choose a string of eight to 10 random numbers and letters for the highest security.
DON’T surf unsecure
Whether you’re shopping, reviewing retirement accounts or making a credit card payment, always use a secure network and look for the “https” when checking out. Turn off “Share Files,” printer access, and “Allow Remote Log-in” on your computer, and use a firewall that’s updated. Most importantly, never enter payment details using free WiFi offered at airports, coffee shops, hotel lobbies and retail stores. These networks are not secure and should only be used for casual browsing.
DO go “incognito”
Did you ever visit an e-retailer a second time and find the site remembers you in eerie ways? That’s because the server used a cookie to identify you. Prevent the detection of such cookies by using anonymizer.com to hide your identity or GuerrillaMail.com to create a temporary email address that lasts just 60 minutes. One hour is plenty of time to shop, checkout, and receive your confirmation email.
DON’T know, don’t click
There are a host of tricks thieves use to deceive you into sharing personal data and payment information, most common of which includes tempting you with discounts through emails, pop-up ads and mistyped URLs. Review websites and email addresses carefully, and if you’re not sure about a link, don’t click on it. Verify the legitimacy of a site at GetLinkInfo.com or WhereDoesThisLinkGo.com.
DO monitor your credit
Monitor your credit score to stop identity thieves from doing major damage by catching suspicious activity from the get go. Check credit card and bank statements regularly and use tools like My LendingTree to receive alerts on any significant changes to your score. What’s more, review your credit report once a year for potential fraud and if you notice something fishy, act quickly. Request a fraud alert to protect against unverified access for 90 days or place a freeze on your account so thieves can’t request a line of credit in your name.
DON’T be clueless about scams
Educating yourself before you become a victim is critical in avoiding cyber scams. For example, coupons or deals that seem too good to be true typically are, like this year’s Publix coupon that may have been a cover for ID theft. Instead of clicking on every deal that sounds good, use reputable and well-known deal sites for online shopping. For a list of the most popular cyber scams and what to look for, check out this advice from tech guru Shelly Palmer. Ultimately, it’s key to use your common sense when surfing the web.