5 Keys to Protect Your Private Information Online

Lessons from the aftermath of the massive Equifax data breach

In today’s world, a large majority of consumers and companies alike have quickly adopted the convenience of technology. These days almost any transaction can be completed online and you can easily shop for almost anything as well.

You can even buy a car or apply for a mortgage, with just a few clicks. These delightful, convenient, time-saving digital tools, leave many consumers wanting more.

Of course, these digital tools do not come without any risks; one of the scariest being identity theft. As you may have already heard, 143 million consumers recently had their information compromised as a result of the Equifax breach. We can use this as an opportunity to learn how to protect ourselves when shopping online.

There is no way to fully protect your private information online, unless you avoid using digital tools altogether. However, this is not an option for most people, so the next best thing to do is to use caution when providing private information.

Here are 5 steps to protect your private information online:

  1. Absolutely DO NOT provide your private information unless you trust and verify the source. There is a popular scam that usually comes in the form of an email or text message, which has a link that takes you to a fake version of the website purporting to be a trusted business. Many of these scam emails are intended to cause alarm because they claim the alleged business needs to update your information or confirm recent purchases. It is so effective, even big companies have been affected including AppleAmazonBank of America, and Google.
  2. Before you provide any private information online, you should verify the website URL starts with “https://”. HTTPS stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure, a protocol that secures communication. Additionally, the “https://” should be the color green with a lock icon next to it. This indicates the URL is safe and you can click on the lock to see the security certificate and details.
  3. Some websites have a verification badge at the bottom of the website. You can test the authenticity of the badge by clicking on it. A pop-up should appear which will display the certificate and verification information. You can verify the information displayed matches the website information. Otherwise, it may not be a secure website and you should be cautious.
  4. Look for the contact information that is listed on a website. You should verify that the information is current, and has at least an email address listed to enable customers to contact the business.
  5. Lastly, it is a good idea to read the Privacy Policy, usually found near the bottom of a website. Privacy Policies are mandatory when a business collects data that can be used to identify an individual. The policy should detail the information the business collects and what they do with it. Companies that value security will generally emphasize it at the top of the privacy policy.
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