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How to Be Safe Online by Preventing Fraud and ID Theft

| February 16, 2013 | 0 Comments

People  more and more are turning to the internet to shop, and communicate with friends and family. All of this activity involves the exchange of personal and financial information traveling through the airwaves, and that means you need to protect yourself from fraud and id theft, and learn how to be safe online.

No matter where you go online, someone is collecting data – through cookies, passwords, emails, photos, social networking sites, etc. They gather information as to your gender, sexual orientation, where you live, what you buy and sell, what you talk about, and what websites you visit.

Social media is a plethora of information gathering, and it is critical that you be as careful as possible to be safe online. Fraud is rampant, and even on social networks that are popular, and most believe to be safe, you have to be careful.

According to Paul Ohm, associate professor at the University of Colorado Law School, “I’ve argued that these databases will grow to connect every individual to at least one closely guarded secret. This might be a secret about a medical condition, family history, or personal preference.” He cited an example in his article published in the Harvard Business Review, titled “Don’t Build a Database of Ruin,” about a father in Minnesota who found out his teenage daughter was pregnant because she had started to receive mailings, magazines and coupons for baby items.

You ask yourself then, what can I do to be safe online, or what more can I do than I already am? Here are a few tips to make your online experience safe, short of going off the grid completely:

1. Stop using credit cards and bank cards. Pay cash for your purchases, especially items you don’t want anyone to know about. For example: one expert started to pay cash for junk and unhealthy food purchases so his insurance company wouldn’t find out about his unhealthy eating habits.

2. Delete cookies in your browsing history. Cookies track your activities through the websites you visit and your activity throughout all of social media. They then sell this information to data mining companies. They learn private and public habits you have; what types of sites you visit and return to; your shopping habits; etc., and this helps them get the information to companies interested in selling you their products. Go into your privacy settings on your computer browser and click “Never remember your history.”

3. Take advantage of free services that block third party browsing. There are companies that provide their services, free of charge, to prevent your IP address from being watched as you surf the web. One such example is Tor.

4. Check your email server. Data miners pay email servers for your information. Make sure your server does not sell your information to third parties. If they do, find one that doesn’t. Read the fine print in their privacy policy (they all have to have one).

5. Use social networking with caution. Networks, such as Facebook, even monitor private messages and status updates. In addition, more than a few people have gotten into trouble for what they posted on a social network, so be careful even when you click “like” for topics that could affect your personal and professional image.

4. Post anonymously.  When making a comment on a blog, post the comment anonymously so someone who may not agree with you does not harass you, or political and social organizations do not solicit you for donations.

5. Report Fraud. If you find someone is selling your personal data without your permission, there has been id theft, or you have been hacked, you have to take steps to ensure your safety. Report fraud as soon as you find out about it.

There is no need to totally close down your computer and lock up all your credit and debit cards. There is good and bad in the use of social media. You just need to be more cautious as to how you use it so you are more in control of who has your information, and why they are using it.

If you want your grocery store to gather your purchasing information in order to give you coupons for items you usually buy, use your debit card. Find out, however, if they sell your personal information. If you don’t want to be bothered with junk mail for products you have no interest in after making a gift purchase, it’s best to use cash.

Staying safe online is a constant and ongoing battle, but if you keep your antennae up and remain on guard, you can have a fun and safe experience.

 

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Category: Online Safety, Social Media Articles, Social Media Tips

Toni Lawrence

About the Author ()

Toni Lawrence is a freelance writer and accomplished businesswoman. She has ghostwritten books and hundreds of articles for blogs and websites of international figures; been a staff writer for a national magazine; been an established member of the Michigan Press Association; publisher of her own regional newspaper; and currently co-owns a business consulting firm and successful online retail shop.

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