Protect yourself during the holidays
Woman on laptop on a plane

How to avoid identity theft

For many families, the hustle and bustle of the holiday season includes traveling to visit families and friends.

For many parents, worrying about how to keep your kids and teens entertained during a long plane ride has gone by the way side thanks to smartphones, tablets and laptops.

Contributed by Becky Frost, Experian's ProtectMyID

Technology certainly has changed the way we travel. However, these handy devices can also become a real threat to your identity if protective measures aren’t put into place.

Identity theft is a serious and prevalent crime that can affect anyone, including children. So much of our personal information is tied into what we do online. It only takes one important piece of information falling into the wrong hands for identity theft to happen. Making the situation worse, many people don’t immediately know that they’ve been victimized, leaving thieves more time to do damage. This makes it all the more important to be mindful of the dangers and protect yourself and your family.

The following tips will put you and your family on the right path to keep your holiday trip a merry one.

Use caution with public Wi-Fi

Public Wi-Fi hotspots can be rife with security issues, making it easier for identity thieves to hack into others’ devices. Consider a portable router to create your own Wi-Fi hotspot for your family’s phones, tablets and laptops. You’ll need a local SIM data card, which is available at most electronic stores, or even airport kiosks.

Keep hackers away

According to recent statistics, more than two-thirds of online adults use a free or unsecured Wi-Fi network, giving hackers free access to the networks. Make sure you are logging into secured or private network when you use Wi-Fi. But if you have to use public Wi-Fi, be very cautious of using unsecured networks and avoid visiting sites that contain private information, like bank accounts.

Use restraint with social media

Sharing moments from your trip on Facebook may seem like a no brainer, but think again. Checking in or posting pictures while out of town can potentially alert strangers that you’re not home and open you up to risk of burglary. It’s advised to wait to post until after you return home — but if you just can’t wait, be sure to set your privacy settings to “friends” only to limit the amount of people aware of your out-of-town status.

Is it the real deal?

Make sure the URL site you’re logging on from your mobile device is legitimate. This is especially important to consider during the holiday shopping season. Cyberspace is riddled with URL spoof sites that are created to steal your information. Before you hit the road, play it safe by bookmarking your favorite sites and stick to visiting them while you’re on a trip since mobile browsers do not show the URL.

Guard your social networks

If you have a blog or social accounts, such as Facebook and Twitter, use the highest security settings possible to ensure your information, posts and photos aren’t being shared more than you want them to.

Password protection

A weak password is like leaving your wallet wide open for anyone to rummage through it. Protect your personal and financial information by using strong passwords. Make it a priority to use a mix of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, symbols and punctuation to make your passwords harder to crack and change them often.

Protect your mobile devices

Password protection is often just as important for your mobile phone, tablet or laptop when it comes to protecting your personal information. Be sure to protect them with strong passwords. For another layer of protection, consider installing wiping software on your mobile device so that you can remove your information remotely if your device goes missing.

Online identity theft can affect your credit and take a long time to resolve. Understanding and mitigating the risks associated with online activities will help you protect your family members’ identities.

About the author:

Becky Frost is senior manager of consumer education for Experian’s ProtectMyID.

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