Time and time again, our blog has tackled the topic of browsing the web via public Wi-Fi. Whether you’re logging in to make a quick bank transfer before booking an additional night at a hotel or casually shopping from a coffee shop, accessing your accounts on an unsecured network can put you at increased risk of identity theft.
Although we have focused so much on the risk public networks can pose, that’s not to say your connection at home is immune to poor browsing behavior. In fact, many of the same habits you should follow when surfing the web in public are equally as useful for improving your identity theft protection at home.
In this post, we’ll outline a few tips for safe browsing that can help protect your identity no matter where you’re connected:
Most people who use email regularly have learned not to open emails that look like spam, as they could contain viruses. That being said, even emails that appear to be legitimate may contain material that could harm your computer. Whether you recognize the sender or not, it’s best to be cautious when opening links or downloading attachments from emails, especially those you weren’t expecting to receive.
For example, while you may receive an email prompting you to update your bank information, the link may in fact go to a fraudulent website. Although you may think you’re providing your information to the financial institution, identity thieves could be reaping the benefits. According to Ontario police, so-called “phishing” attacks like these managed to gather information from more than 500 people in the province alone last year.
If you receive an email from what appears to be an official source asking you to follow a link, reach out to the company directly to confirm they sent you the notice. Or, try navigating to the page from the organization’s official website.
While avoiding online shopping via a public connection can help protect your login credentials from fraudsters using the network maliciously, there is still a risk associated with storing your financial information online. Whether an identity thief steals your password or the vendor suffers a data breach, there is simply no way to guarantee the financial information you file on an e-commerce site stays secure.
By using a single credit card for all of your online purchases, however, you can limit the potential damage if your account is somehow compromised. When an ID thief commits credit fraud, while they can run up a balance on your card, they do not have access to the funds in your account. If your debit card information was stolen, on the other hand, the charges could deduct straight from your bank account. The layer of distance credit cards offer affords you time to dispute fraudulent charges without worrying about cash flow.
With internet connectivity nearly everywhere we go, it’s easier than ever to post that photo of the waves outside your hotel directly from your beach chair. As exciting as it may be to update your friends while you’re on vacation, doing so could also alert burglars that you’re away from home. According to the CBC, summer vacation often prompts a spike in break-ins, as criminals take advantage of empty houses to go looking for valuables and sensitive documents.
To avoid advertising your home’s vacancy to potential ID thieves, hold off on posting photos or checking into vacation spots until you’re back home — even if you’re only away for a few days. Plus, make sure to turn off geo-tagging on your posts, as it could reveal the location you posted from even if you didn’t explicitly state it.
While these tips can help your identity theft protection go from good to great, there is unfortunately no way to sidestep this risk altogether. For a second set of eyes that can watch your credit files even when you can’t, consider signing up for a credit monitoring service like Credit Alert. We can alert you if we detect certain activity that may indicate fraud, and even help you dispute fraud if you become a victim.
To learn more, contact us today.