In the 21st Century, we’re all dependent upon having access to the internet. It’s where we get the latest news of the day, instantly corresponding with family members and friends or communicating with colleagues about issues on a work-related project. Unfortunately, keeping our personal information safe has become a myth rather than reality.

In a recent Pew Research Center study, 64 percent of all Americans have been exposed to a data breach that allowed a third party to access their personal information. Such actions against them include suffering financial demise from fraudulent credit card charges, hacking of their email accounts, third parties taking control of various social media accounts, a line of credit or personal loan secured from their private financial records and fraudulent tax returns filed in their name.
It’s sad to report about individuals who surf the internet looking to steal other people’s identities for profit. To protect yourself, it’s smart to learn which information these individuals are seeking and the right course to protect and possibly remove personal information from Google searches. All of these measures will guard against your online data being stolen by others.

What Type of Information Should Be Protected

Personal information is used to distinguish us from one another. The data provided is often linked together that helps to identify that one specific individual.
Often, this is accomplished by offering your full name, your maiden name if married or mother’s maiden name. Other standard personal information used by government agencies to verify your identity is social security number, driver’s license number, passport number, and checking & savings account numbers. In all cases, you will have to confirm your street address, email address, and phone number before moving forward with your business. Yes, the list of personal information required to verify your identity can be considered lengthy and excessive, but it is necessary to avoid another person stealing your online profile.

Despite all of the roadblocks put in front of hackers and cybercriminals in order to protect your own identity, you still need to monitor all of your social media accounts for false posts placed under your name. Why? Well, that is the first sign your personal information has been stolen by another individual.

How to Keep Your Personal Information Private

Keeping your personal information private is an important first step in preventing others from stealing your identity. It’s all about putting barriers in front of your data for those attempting to gain access to the information. It seems hackers and cybercriminals try to stay one step ahead in order to assume your online profile. Often, this can be accomplished by infiltrating your various personal accounts and retrieving login information before beginning to commit cybercrimes. Being a victim of identity theft can have long-lasting repercussions to your personal and professional life.

Recent studies have shown that close to 17 million people have been a victim of some form of identity theft in their life. And you can expect that number to increase with the increased use of technology. However, there are steps to lower the odds of identity theft from happening to you.

A good first step is to familiarize yourself with common identity theft scams. Do not offer your personal information up over the phone or through email. Be weary of phone calls or emails from businesses you don’t frequently do business with. Also be careful that the business name is spelled properly and typical grammar is used throughout. Avoid clicking links in an email. Instead, you can search for the page on google. This will avoid you going to a mirrored scam site.

Also, refrain from carrying your social security card on your body unless it’s needed to open a bank account. Wipe clean all information stored on your old smartphones, computers, and tablet devices before discarding them away.

How To Protect Your Financial Information

Cyber criminals love stealing personal financial information in order to make unauthorized money withdrawals or bank transfers from a victim’s account. Although financial institutions websites are supposed to be encrypted, you still need to take the necessary steps to ensure your savings are safe from outside forces.

Your first step is to never share bank account information with anyone. It’s easy for cyber criminals to withdraw money from your checking and savings account by illegally acquiring account and routing numbers from other websites. If you need to make a bill payment, it’s better to use your credit card as most offer fraud benefits in their identity protection packages.

Create strong online passwords that contain at least 12 characters including at least one capital letter, one number, and a symbol. Try avoiding using dictionary words or popular passwords like “123456GO!,” as that makes it easy to guess your password. The most popular type is answering a secret question about your personal life. Usually, it’s an event or a person, and the answer can be inaccurate, so only you know the proper response. Furthermore, make sure every account has a unique password. If your password is compromised on one website, the cybercriminal then has access to any other account using the same login information.

Never log-on to your bank account unless you’re on a protected internet network, like the service inside your home. Using unsecured Wi-Fi connection will allow unknown individuals access to your personal information. Ideally, if you’re outside, then wired connections are the best option available. Cellular phone networks are ideal as cybercriminals have a hard time hacking into such systems.

Only make online purchases from secured websites. If you’re unsure of their validity, then check for the “s” after the “http” in the website’s address. This confirms the site is protected by the Secure Socket Layer (SSL) encryption service. Plus, you can still trust the padlock icon up top on the site as it will have the words “secure” or “verified” underneath the icon. Remember, click onto the padlock icon which takes you to the site’s verification page. If this doesn’t occur, then the website is unsecured and unreliable from protecting your personal financial information from others.

The final preventative measure in protecting your personal financial information is never saving your bank account information online. Too often, major store websites will offer their customers to store their credit or debit card information on their website to make future purchases more convenient. However, storing your financial data on a store’s website ups the odds of your personal information being stolen from hackers.

Be Smart About Your Online Presence

The smartest way to avoid your home from being burglarized while you’re away is avoiding sharing any information on your vacation plans on all social media sites. Innocently, you might be thinking you’re sharing information with only your friends, but you’re also providing valuable information for thieves searching to rob homes while the resident is away.

If you’re looking to change jobs, then count on a potential employer to do an extensive background check on yourself before securing an interview. This will include a full examination of all social media accounts and the data received from a public record online search.

It’s important to remove all negative social media posts from your online profile before actively pursuing another job. Try to avoid discussing politics or religion online and complaining about your current job situation as this could put you in a bad light professionally.

Some individuals, before beginning a job search, will conduct their own background check on themselves. This will help them to correct any errors found on the report and prevent any misinformation from being leaked to a potential employer.  You can also hire a professional to evaluate your online reputation. Experts know where to look and what to look for in addition to how to remove unsavory things. Prevention, though is the key. If you don’t post freely online to begin, you won’t have to worry about correcting that at a later time.

For business owners, you are constantly under the threat of a data breach in your business occurring, which puts the personal information of their customers at risk. On the average, the cost is large for most businesses to rectify this problem as it will include possible disruption of the business’ data theft repair and possible regulation fines from the federal government. Plus, let’s not forget the possible loss of customer’s confidence in your brand moving forward.

There are several ways to safeguard against the threat of losing your customer’s personal information that was shared online. First, remove all business transactions from internet access by encrypting all data received from them. The encryption process will allow a customer to transmit personal information through a secured server. Plus, this will make all potential hackers work over time trying to obtain this valuable data. Additionally, follow any generic safety rules for computers and internet by keeping everything up to date and use secure, unique passcodes for everything.

Protect Your Identity and Personal Information

Social media can further be a source of personal information for those that seek it. While some people have the opinion that they “have nothing to hide” and choose not to censor themselves, freely posting their thoughts, their deepest thoughts, and even their personal information, sometimes it takes being burned to understand the vulnerability of being too open online. Is your telephone number, address, political leanings, and more available on your social media pages? Do you use Facebook to login to shopping sites, even your health care provider website?

Some simple steps to being safe on social media are not listing your address, phone number, or email address. Keep your page marked to “friends only” when you post. Limit photos that you share. Login to outside websites using unique login credentials over a quick login through social media pages.

Today, we are constantly faced with choices to make about convenience versus privacy. It is not required that we are all shut-ins that don’t utilize the convenience of online shopping and the sociability of social media outlets. However, knowing where the risks are and how to prevent your personal information from becoming breached can save you a giant headache in the future. At People Eraser, we can help make that easier for you. We are experts on the topic and can assist you from removing personal information about you that already exists online. We also offer personal consulting services that take a look at your online presence and offer an audit as well as a plan to fix any vuneralbilites that may exist.