Protect Your Identity on the Internet

October 27, 2015 The TNS Group

I’ve seen so much pain surrounding identity theft. It happened to my mom, co-workers, and a number of people I’ve met and spoken with via casual conversation. Once your life has been turned upside down by identity theft, you have to do things like contact the holy trinity of credit bureaus, file police reports, and hop on one foot while rubbing your tummy and singing the star spangled banner. Well… maybe not that last part, but it’s still quite complex for the average person to navigate and could add countless hours of work, cost you hard earned money, innumerable grey hairs, and a heaping tablespoon of stress. Beyond identity theft, there are viruses, malware, and hackers (oh my!).

So… a little about me, and how I relate to this current quandary. I’m 34, have been using computers since I was 8 (anyone remember the DOS game Zork?), and have never had my identity stolen (probably jinxing myself with this one). I have also never been infected with viruses or malware… and I should state that I don’t need Antivirus to do it. I even challenged myself to go a year with no Antivirus to make sure it wasn’t a fluke. Does that mean that the average person should surf the web unprotected? NO… I’m a trained professional. Don’t try this at home, and do as I say not as I do… please.

People that have been alive a lot longer and have had more time on the ‘tech bench’ have had their identities stolen over and over again, continuously infected and hijacked, etc.… that begs the question: WHAT AM I DOING THAT THEY AREN’T, OR WHAT ARE THEY DOING THAT I’M NOT?

Well… it’s not quite that simple. While I am not doing anything special, I do follow some cardinal rules when protecting myself online. However, I can share some recommendations that will likely increase your safety when perusing the Interwebs (as the kids are calling it these days).

  1. NEVER click on internet ads or popups: As discussed here, I’m sure that Google knows what you’re shopping for, but avoid clicking those pesky ads in the sidebar.  I recommend AdBlockPlus for Chrome, Firefox, or most other viable web browsers.
  1. NEVER click on links in emails: The caveat is… UNLESS YOU KNOW THE PERSON AND YOU EXPECTED THE EMAIL.  If your friend Marcy (name changed to protect the innocent) emails you out of the blue and the email says “Hey gorgeous, check out my new website.”  It’s time to do some deductive reasoning:

a.  I haven’t talked to Marcy in x years
b.  She hasn’t used that aol address since she sent that email about her account being stolen
c.  I’m a guy… For the record, guys can be gorgeous… I’m just more of a “handsome”…

To summarize: NEVER CLICK LINKS THAT LOOK FUNNY WITHOUT CONFIRMING WITH THE PERSON THAT SENT IT (Marcy would love to hear from you anyway…)

  1. ALWAYS shop securely: When online shopping, make sure that the site is secure (https) and there is a non-expired certificate. LOOK FOR THE LOCK. Here’s an article from PCMag from 2011 sharing additional examples of safe online shopping. The reason there aren’t newer articles is because the information NEVER CHANGES!
  1. ALWAYS use complex passwords for online banking and e-commerce: As shared here, might be time to change your password(s).
  1. ALWAYS have good, up-to-date Antivirus: As noted here, don’t skimp on your AV.  It’ll be the best few bucks you spend this holiday season.  TNS recommends Sep.Cloud, which is available at the consumer level.

If you run a business, and are concerned about protecting your investments regarding identity theft, or any of the points made above, please contact our team to learn more so we can put a strategy in place.

By:  Matt Schenkman, Client Services, The TNS Group

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