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How to Protect Your Identity Online

Shopping onlineThere used to be a time when many Americans were afraid to pay for anything online because they thought their financial information might be compromised.  Now, the majority of Americans think nothing of paying online.

When using your credit or debit card online, being prudent and cautious is best.  Unfortunately, you could make yourself vulnerable to hackers even if you do everything right to protect yourself online.  Think of how many companies routinely report data breaches.

While you can never be 100% protected, there are a few things you can do to protect your financial identity when paying online.

1.  Use a debit card that is not linked to your main bank account.

While this may be inconvenient, if someone does access your information, they’ll only be able to drain your separate account that is linked to the debit card.  Imagine if the debit card was linked to your main checking account and you had the money for your house payment and monthly bills in there.  All that money could be gone in an instant.

2.  When paying online, use a separate credit card exclusively for online purchases.

Credit card companies get to know your spending patterns.  If you only use one credit card for online purchases and then suddenly the card is used in brick and mortar stores, the credit card company may become suspicious and limit the activity, which is a good thing.  This can protect you from a thief stealing your credit and being able to charge thousands of dollars.

3.  Change your passwords frequently and make them long and difficult.

Using the same simple password for every place you go online is easy, and it’s also easy for a hacker to get into all of your accounts.  Instead, have a separate password for every account you access online and make the passwords difficult.  A password like M##f3lp*(rumg! will be much harder to guess than one that is your child’s name.

4.  Check your credit report every 4 months.

You can request your free credit report from each of the 3 credit bureaus one time per year.  Check one such as Experian in January, TransUnion in May, and Equifax in September.  Then repeat the entire cycle in January.  Then you’ll be keeping close tabs on your credit, and you’ll know quickly if someone has stolen your identity so you can limit the damage.

Go ahead and enjoy the convenience of paying online.  Just also make sure to take these 4 simple steps to help you protect yourself from being a victim of identity theft.

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