Our ever-expanding connectivity exposes us to the risk of theft, fraud, and abuse

By Sara Albert

AAA World Article

According to the Federal Trade Commission, identity theft is the fastest growing crime in America, with almost 10 million incidents occurring each year. It’s vital that Americans stay aware about the latest cyber threats and on top of ways to stay safe online. AAA offers the following tips:

  1. Use secure passwords
    When creating a password, use a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols. Avoid using words in the dictionary or personal information, such as your Social Security number or birthday. Never share your passwords with anyone. And don’t reuse them—using the same or similar ones for different accounts makes it easier for hackers to gain access.

  2. Enroll in an identity theft monitoring service
    Identity theft monitoring services can alert you to aberrant activity in your various accounts. AAA Members can enroll in ProtectMyID for free.

  3. Update your software
    Be sure to keep your operating system, web browser, anti-virus, anti-spyware, and other essential software up to date. Most major software companies provide free updates and patches for their users to download.

  4. Know who you’re dealing with
    If someone claiming to be a representative of a company asks you to provide personal information via email, contact the company directly to verify.

  5. Pay attention to URLs
    This is one of the easiest ways to stay safe online. Always double check that the URL of the website you’re visiting is correct. Malicious websites sometimes use a variation in spelling or a different domain to deceive computer users.

  6. Don’t open unsolicited email attachments
    Attachments can sometimes contain hidden viruses or bits of code that can access your personal information and send it to a specific individual without your knowledge. Turn off the setting to automatically download email attachments. It’s also smart to save and scan attachments with anti-virus software before opening them.

  7. Be careful what you post
    Being conscious of how to stay safe online is especially important on social sites. Limit what personal information you post on social media sites and forums and be sure to never post your address, schedule, or any other information that could leave you vulnerable.

  8. Configure your security settings
    Use your social media site’s privacy settings to change who can view your information. Many websites allow you to share information only with certain people instead of the general public.

  9. Only use secure networks when web browsing
    When accessing the Internet on a mobile device, be sure you’re using a network that you know and trust. Using an unsecured network allows anyone else on that network to pull your information at will.

  10. Don’t trust unknown links
    Don’t click on strange links or answer suspicious questions sent through email or text message if the sender is unfamiliar.

  11. Only download trusted apps
    When downloading applications for your computer or mobile device, be sure to get them from reputable marketplaces, such as the Apple App Store or Google Play. 
  12. Keep track of who’s storing your information
    Create a list or spreadsheet to keep track of websites where you’ve created accounts, particularly ones that are storing your credit card information. Delete account profiles from websites that you no longer use. The fewer places your information is being stored, the easier it is to identify the source of a breach.

  13. Don’t share your Wi-Fi
    While sharing your Wi-Fi connection with neighbors may seem generous, it can slow down your Internet speed and allow other users to see everything on your computer.

  14. Use shared computers with caution
    Never input confidential information into a public or shared computer as any user after you will have access to it. Also, be sure to check for any flash drives that may have been left in by a previous user. These devices could be used to monitor your activity and store any information you do decide to input.

  15. Secure your mobile devices
    Anti-virus and anti-spyware software isn’t just for your computer. Download security software onto your smartphone to protect it from malware. Keep these tips in mind as you go about your daily internet use and stay safe online.