5 ways to protect your online presence

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Every day, it seems like we hear about new or emerging internet scams. As helpful as the internet can be, the horror stories tend to cast a dark cloud. But, with a few simple precautions, you can still use the internet safely. Here are five easy tips you can implement to protect your online presence.

1. Enable two-step authentication

Also known as multi- or two-factor authentication (MFA) or login approval, two-step verification provides an extra layer of security beyond your username and password to protect against account hijacking. When using this security feature, you will log in using your password and then be prompted to verify your identity again. This second verification is usually done via a biometric (fingerprint or face scan), security keys or a unique one-time code through an app on your mobile device.

Many websites and companies offer two-step verification, and they make it easy to set up this second layer—usually found in the settings section of your account. Using two-step authentication can help you feel more secure, especially for sites containing your financial information, like online banking.

2. Check a site’s SSL certificate

Whenever you’re shopping online and entering credit card or bank information, it’s important to make sure that website is secured to protect against hackers trying to steal your information. You can find out if a website is secure by checking its SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certification. While this process sounds complicated, it’s actually one of the simplest and quickest things to do for your online security.

When on a website, check the URL. Does it start with “http://” or “https://”? If you notice an “s” at the end, that means your connection is encrypted and secure. Any data you enter is safely sent to the website. However, not all sites have SSL certification. They may be fine to browse, but avoid sharing any financial or personal information on websites without this added layer of security.

3. Don’t save financial information on shopping platforms

Many shopping sites let you save your credit card information in your online account. This setup makes it easier to make purchases in the future, as your billing and shipping addresses and credit card information are stored. However, if you can access this information, so can hackers. Rather than store your credit cards and addresses in your accounts, spend the extra minute to enter your information each time you make a purchase.

Even sites with SSL certification can be hacked. While there may not be a way yet to completely safeguard your data from hackers if you shop online, you can secure your financial information better by removing it altogether from shopping sites.

4. Be careful who you trust

Catfishing has made headlines numerous times in the last few years, and this online scam doesn’t seem to be letting up anytime soon. Catfishing happens when a person sets up a fake online profile—usually on social media or dating sites—and targets people with the goal of asking for money.

Catfishers are in it for the long game and may try to strike up an online relationship for months before asking for money. The losses can be extreme, averaging more than $15,000 per victim. To avoid catfishing, don’t accept friend requests from people you don’t know and never send money to someone you haven’t met in person. If a situation ever feels suspicious, trust your gut and cut off contact with that individual.

5. Create strong, unique passwords

Whether it’s your social media or online banking accounts, it’s important to use strong, unique passwords. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to constantly change your passwords (unless you notice unauthorized access or your account is part of a data breach). But, it’s recommended to avoid reusing the same password across different accounts.

Make your password a sentence: A strong password is a sentence that is at least 12 characters long and a combination of upper- and lowercase numbers, letters, and special characters. Focus on positive sentences or phrases that you like to think about and are easy to remember (for example, “Il0v3c0untrymu$ic!”).

Bottom line

Protecting your online presence is essential in today’s digital world. Following these five simple tips can help you protect your online presence and safeguard your personal information from hackers and scammers, and minimize your risk of becoming a victim of cybercrime.

Even if you take all the necessary precautions, it’s important to be aware of the latest online scams and threats. Stay informed by reading security blogs and articles, and report any suspicious activity to the appropriate authorities. By working together, we can create a safer online experience for everyone.

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