(WXYZ) — Here are 10 tips to help you secure your identity while surfing the web and protect against pesky hackers.
- Check if your personal data has been compromised by checking your data breached status at www.haveibeenpwned.com. The website lists where private data has been unintentionally exposed to the public. The website also lists the company data basis that have been hacked, exposing your personal information.
- Use secure Wi-Fi connections. And if you have to use the Wi-Fi at Starbucks, make sure you don’t put any of your private information on websites while using it. A VPN service can be used to encrypt all data you send when working on an unsecured internet connection. However, there may be a fee to use the service, according to tech website Techlicious.com.
- Ever so often, clear out the networks you automatically connect to for Wi-Fi, Consumer Reports advises. Hackers are able to copy Wi-Fi addresses and your phone, tablet or computer can be duped into automatically joining it.
- Adding your number to National Do Not Call Registry: There are two ways to put a halt to annoying sales calls. You can visit www.donotcall.gov to add you number to the registry so that pesky sales calls are blocked from your phone. However, during the government shutdown the website is not available, but will resume after the government is funded. The other way is by calling 1-888-382-1222. According to the Federal Trade Commission, if you’re still receiving sales calls after being added to the list, it’s a likely chance it’s a scam.
- Did you know there’s a rise in medical identity theft? According to an article published by Consumer Reports in August 2016, there were 2.3 million cases identified in 2014, which was up almost 22 percent from the previous year. How it works? A thief could use your health insurance numbers to see a doctor, get prescription drugs or file claims. This will affect your payment records and credit. You can check if your identity has been compromised by visiting www.IdentityTheft.gov, however, this website is also on hiatus until the government shutdown ends. You can find more information on medical identity theft here.
- Additionally, be sure to shred these five types of documents to protect your identity: Social Security number (even just the last four digits), birth date, credit card numbers, account numbers from financial institutions and medical insurance numbers.
- If you've ever received mail for credit card offers, you may want to put a stop to those unsolicited mailings. Consumer Reports says identity thieves can intercept those mailings and have credit cards sent to their address. Here's how you can put a stop to receiving that type of mail: visit www.optoutprescreen.com or call 1-888-567-8688. The Consumer Credit Reporting Industry will then shut those mailings off for five years, and you can always opt back in if you'd like.
- For Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google email and most other social media sites, there is an option for two-factor authentication, where after you initially log in a notification comes to your phone or email with a verification code that's needed to log in. This protects against social media hackers because even if they're able to get your password, they'd need your physical phone or access to your email account to log in.
- If you've ever been told to switch up your passwords often, don't believe the hype. According to Consumer Reports, be loyal to your passwords. You shouldn't change what works unless there's a good reason, otherwise, ride the wave of a strong password that you won't forget every time you log in. Consumer Reports says if you switch out passwords too often you'll end up using weaker and weaker options.
- And this may be a no-brainer, but make sure you close unused accounts. According to LifeLock.com, which is partnered with Norton security, an old, unused email account could be holding very personal information like bank statement or health care forms. It's suggested to invest time in doing some virtual house cleaning and prurging any emails or old accounts you no longer use to keep hackers at bay.
Additional steps for better security: choose computer generated passwords that are not easy to guess, and also subscribe to notifications for any breaches, according to Consumer Reports.