March is Fraud Prevention month in Canada, and since Canadians spend more time surfing the internet than people in any other country in the world, there is no better time than the present to review strategies for protecting against online identity theft.
Install anti-virus protection
To guard against your computer system being compromised while surfing the internet, it’s imperative to install software that includes both anti-virus and anti-malware protection. The software should update daily, include a firewall and scan all links.
Use secure wireless connections
When shopping or doing banking online it is imperative to use a secure wireless network. Engaging in these activities on a public Wi-Fi network leaves you vulnerable to hackers seeking to steal money from bank accounts, access credit card information to commit fraud or steal your identity by accessing personal information. At home, create a secure network by configuring your wireless network so it requires a security key (chosen by you) for access. You can also set up a VPN (virtual private network) to protect you away from home.
Your protection against online identity theft is only as strong as your passwords. According to CBC News, the most common and weakest include password, 123456, qwerty, abc123 and monkey. The Right Click advises that a strong password uses at least seven characters and contains a combination of letters (uppercase and lowercase), numbers and symbols. Avoid using the same password on multiple websites and be sure to change your passwords every couple of months.
Beware of phishing
Using email makes you vulnerable to online identity theft through the practice of phishing, which happens when customers and clients of existing online institutions or websites are lured into providing personal information or passwords on a similar, but fraudulent site. Public Safety Canada advises consumers to be suspicious of any email asking for personal, financial or sensitive information; avoid clicking on links in such emails and verify the correct website address; and make certain that transactions on websites are only done over a secure server (the URL will begin with “https”).
Safe social media
Interacting on Facebook and other social media sites can leave you open to identity theft unless you take precautions. PC World recommends not befriending anyone you don’t know well, being extremely cautious about providing birthdates or other personal information (your own or that of family and friends) and ensuring all privacy settings are the most restrictive they can be.