Despite the digital age making our life seemingly easier, it also seems like we have to do more and more all the time to protect our personal and financial information. Over 80% of Canadians have Internet access at home, and that may even be a fairly conservative number. That means most of us leave a digital footprint which in the right hands can make an access point for thieves and scammers.
While BBB does not want you to stop using the Internet, we do have some tips on how to best protect your digital identity.
- The big Kahuna. Be careful what you put in social media. Don’t post anything you wouldn’t want police or your Grandma to see. Don’t click on every Facebook ad or pop-up that peaks your interest. Where you click can be digitally recorded. Data points are collected by the sites you visit and this information can be sold to other companies. Some ads are just ‘click bait’ and are used to drag you to another questionable site. Don’t include your birthday in social media profiles. ID thieves can do more damage if they get a hold of your birth date as some organizations may use it to identify passwords. Understand when you post something on the internet, it’s out there forever. Deleting online content often only removes it from public view, it can be stored in archives and databases forever.
- Use multiple usernames and passwords. Beyond the fact we should be changing our passwords at least 3 times a year, experts tell us adopting a habit of different usernames also helps prevent thieves from finding and accessing your information. Having the same username across multiple sites makes you easier to track. Not just usernames and passwords by the way. No doubt you use the same email to sign up for a variety of sites. If possible, don't use the same email address all the time.
- Geolocation services are fairly new to the smartphone array. Millions of people allow apps and websites to mark your location, and many, like the popular Pokemon Go app require your GPS on your phone be turned on. Where does all this information go? Good question. But if you have any concerns about your service provider knowing where you are at any given time, consider turning it off on your phone’s settings.
- Browse privately. If you are using Google Chrome it’s possible to browse ‘incognito’ online. Browsing in a private setting does not save cookies or search history. Sites you visit, however, do remember your IP address. This can be problematic if you are, say, searching for a special birthday gift for your partner and ads relating to it start popping up when they use the computer.
- Turn on cookie blocker. By blocking third-party cookies you will prevent some of the online data collection about you. Cookies can track your online movements, even cookies from sites you weren’t aware you were visiting. You can notice this by seeing certain ads pop up that relate to specific products. Cookies can track your habits, preferences, intentions and more. By blocking cookies, less information about you is in the ether.
BBB simply wants you to surf the net with safety in mind. There is no perfect answer to protecting your online footprint, however putting a few of these into practice can certainly help reduce the potential for scams and ID theft.