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Identity theft isn’t just one of those Internet rumors your cousin warned you about in a forwarded email twenty years ago. One in three Americans has been a victim of identity theft. Hackers are working overtime to steal the identities of unsuspecting internet users— and it’s why you need to take extra precautions to protect your identity online.

As an individual, there are things you can do to ensure you don’t accidentally reveal your personal information online. Let’s look at five strategies to safeguard your identity online.

Five Easy Ways to Protect Your Identity Online

Protecting your identity online doesn’t have to be a massive undertaking. Instead, implement these five easy strategies to secure your personal information.

1. Use Strong, Unique Passwords

Two-thirds of Americans use the same password, and 81% of security threats are caused by weak passwords. While using the same easy-to-remember password for all your accounts is convenient, it also comes with a significant risk.

For example, if you use the same password for your accounts and a hacker or scammer learns it, all your accounts are compromised. This is incredibly unsettling if you use the same password for important accounts, like bank accounts and social media profiles.

Instead of reusing passwords, take the time to create complex, unique passwords for each of your accounts. Try to use a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols to create your password. You could replace the vowels in your password with a number or a symbol. Depending on your operating system, it can likely develop strong passwords for you. 

Remember, if you allow your operating system to create your password, write it down. Password managers can be a great way to keep up with your passwords without reusing them for various accounts.

2. Enable Two-Factor Authentication (2FA)

Two-factor authentication, or 2FA, is an increasingly common form of account security. 2FA adds a second layer of protection to your accounts by requiring users to provide two forms of identification to gain access. 

Typically, when logging into their accounts with 2FA enabled, users enter their password and are prompted to enter an authentication code sent to their phones. Other times, users may be prompted to open an app on their mobile device or scan their thumbprint.

Pro tip: Enabling 2FA for your accounts is a good idea. This extra layer of security can make it more challenging for criminals to access your information.

3. Be Wary of Phishing Scams

Another strategy to protect your identity online is to be aware of phishing scams. In this kind of scam, a criminal calls, emails, or texts their target and acts like a legitimate company.  This scam is common. Cybercriminals send an estimated 3.4 billion emails designed to look like legitimate emails daily.

In phishing emails, texts, or phone calls, they might ask for sensitive information, like PINs or account numbers, to gain access to personal information. If you’re targeted through an email, clicking a fraudulent link could prompt the installation of malware or spyware on your computer, which could leak your private information.

Before you respond to a strange text or email, check the sender’s email address or phone number. Usually, a wonky sender email address is the first tip that the email or text is a scam. If someone has called you to ask for your account numbers, immediately hang up and call your bank to verify the call’s legitimacy. Your bank will never contact you to ask for your information. 

4. Keep Your Software Updated

Keeping your operating system’s software up-to-date is another way to protect your identity online. Bugs and weak links can be easy access points for hackers. Regular updates ensure you operate on a secure system. 

If your device is ready for an update, don’t put it off. Schedule your software update when you won’t use your device—like at night or during your lunch break. Be sure to save your work and any open documents before updating. Otherwise, you risk losing your work! 

5. Monitor Your Accounts Regularly

Regularly checking your bank accounts and credit card statements is an easy way to ensure your online identity is safe. 

Take the time to review your accounts, and if you notice any fraudulent or suspicious activity, contact your financial institution immediately. You can dispute any charges, and your financial institution will be able to guide you through the next steps to ensure your accounts are secure again.

Protecting Your Identity Online

Unfortunately, identity theft is becoming more common. But you don’t have to fall victim to it. You can help prevent criminal cybersecurity attacks by implementing protection strategies, such as using strong passwords and being aware of phishing scams. 

Protecting your identity online doesn’t have to be complicated. It just takes vigilance and staying up-to-date and informed on the latest cybersecurity threats.