The Internet is an incredible resource, full of useful information and helpful tools. Browsing what’s available online provides you with an opportunity to learn what you need to know to master just about any skill or subject you can think of.
This is certainly true when it comes to managing your money and improving your personal finances. There are countless blogs, podcasts, and apps available that help you achieve a wide range of financial goals.
From paying off your student loan debt to learning how to invest for your future, resources are out there and available for you to use. But for some of these tools to be effective, you need to provide private information.
After all, personal finance is personal for a reason, and it’s important to work with your real data when it comes to using apps that help you create action plans and set goals. It’s possible to safely guard your financial data once you learn how to protect your privacy online.
Understand the risks of sharing your information
Learning how to protect your privacy online is important for anyone who uses the Internet. Cyber crime is a real and increasing threat as we continually live more and more of our lives online.
As illustrated by a number of high-profile data breaches in major corporations in the last few years, these leaks and breaches put your information at risk. Financial data is a big target since thieves can use it to gain access to both your identity and your assets.
And protecting your privacy isn’t just about keeping your data from people engaged in illegal activities. Many companies look to buy data about web users. These companies are known as data brokers, and what they do is currently legal.
Data brokers can buy a huge amount of information about you, and from that, guess quite a bit more about your identity. They can get access to basic data like your name, age, gender, and address. They might also obtain extremely personal details such as your religion, your marital status, and the types of government licenses you carry.
Before signing up for any services or products, read the fine print. Does the company promise to protect your information and use it only internally?
When it comes to understanding how to protect your identity online, it makes sense to follow a “better safe than sorry” approach. You don’t need to be paranoid, but you do need to know what to do to secure information about yourself and your finances.
How to protect your privacy online
In general, you should follow these best practices with any personal information that could compromise your privacy on the web.
1. Use security software on your devices.
Good security software will help protect your computer against viruses, spyware, spam, and hackers. It should also allow you to use a firewall when accessing the Internet.
2. Set strong passwords and change them periodically.
Strong passwords are those using a random combination of letters, numbers, and symbols. You’ll want to use different passwords for different accounts and avoid any passwords that appear on lists like these that show the most common (and therefore most easily hacked) in use.
To make strong passwords easier to use and manage, you can use a tool like LastPass to help you keep track of all your accounts from one dashboard.
3. Always use secure wireless networks.
Anyone can access an open WiFi network and potentially steal your information or go through your device to carry out illegal activity. When you’re out and about, use caution when connecting to public WiFi networks. Don’t send personal or financial information over public-use networks (like those at coffee shops or airports).
Hackers can easily see and steal this information. They can even set up fake lookalike wireless networks that appear to be the open WiFi you want to connect to, in order to steal your data.
4. Learn to recognize and avoid phishing scams.
Phishing scams are emails or websites designed to lure you into providing private information by posing as a legitimate business. Always treat emails asking for personal information with a degree of skepticism, and look at the URL before clicking any links. Reading emails as plain-text can help you see where links and images point to before clicking.
Go the extra mile to secure financial data
When it comes to sharing information about your financial life, it’s wise to take extra steps to ensure all your data remains safely stored and out of the wrong hands. Here’s how you can take additional precautions when working with this information online:
5. Use two-factor authentication.
This is an additional layer of security on top of a username and password. It requires you to set up three ways of verifying your information when you want to log into an account, and you need to provide at least two of those ways to gain access.
This makes your accounts harder to hack, since two-factor authentication requires both something you know (like a password) and something you have (like your cell phone). For example, when you try to log in to an account, you’re phone will receive a specific code, which you would need to input along with your password.
6. Set up banking and fraud alerts.
Most financial institutions provide some degree of consumer protection and you won’t be held liable for fraudulent charges. However, it still helps to act fast if your information is stolen or at risk.
Setting up automatic alerts for suspicious activity can help you and your financial institution act fast to prevent further damage and to put a stop to any theft, either of your assets or your information.
7. Monitor your credit reports and accounts.
In addition to setting up alerts, make sure you look at your credit report and manually check all your financial accounts on a regular basis. You can order your credit report for free each year at AnnualCreditReport.com.
When you review your bank accounts, do so monthly and check the last 30 days of transactions to make sure all activity was something you authorized.
Know how to protect your identity online
You should be able to safely use the resources, tools, and apps at your disposal to improve your financial situation. Learn how to be smart and safe about that usage. Knowing how to protect your privacy online is a huge step in keeping all your financial data secure.
Being aware and alert is a big step in protecting your identity and financial information. By exercising caution, you can safely use tools and applications that may ask for financial information.
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