Whether it’s shopping for a Mother’s Day gift, depositing a check, or looking up where to spend your summer vacation, you’ll head online first before you leave to hit the mall, bank, or travel agency. Thanks to the growing network of the Internet of Things, it’s never been easier to do everything from behind a screen.
While your computer or smartphone is a convenient addition when you’re doing chores, it opens you up to security risks, and your analog life does not. To make sure you’re safe any time you hit the web, make sure you follow these online security habits:
1. Create a unique password for every login
It doesn’t matter if you’re scrolling through Instagram, using a mobile wallet to pay for your Starbucks order, or looking for ways to invest your money. Each uses a password to protect your data from cyber theft.
It’s important you use a distinct password for each of these profiles. If you reuse the same one over and over again, you’ll weaken even a strong password’s defenses.
A strong password is at least eight characters long, containing at least one:
- Capitalized letter
- Lower-case letter
- Special character — something like !@#
It should also be hard to guess. Although Password1! Technically fits the guidelines above, it’s not especially hard to crack. Common words, familiar names, or special dates are easy to hack, so steer clear of them entirely.
2. Research your options
The Internet isn’t just a way to shop. FinTech is booming, which means you can find a solution to any financial issue online — whether it’s how to invest your money or how to get a cash advance when you’re in a tight spot.
If you’re looking for an installment loan or line of credit, there’s a huge selection of these products. However, you may not be eligible for everything you see online. Individual lenders will have different criteria they expect from their borrowers. There may also be regulations limiting the kinds of services available in your state.
One of the biggest conditions of traditional lending is your credit score, with most mainstream banks preferring customers who have good or excellent ratings. Conversely, applicants with subprime credit will likely have their requests denied by major institutions like banks.
When you know your score before you apply, you can cut down how often you’re sending private information over the Internet. You’ll be able to choose products that match your credit history without over applying to lenders that may not approve your request for an installment loan.
Not only will you limit how many companies have access to your financial data, but you’ll also avoid wasting time on solutions that won’t work for you.
3. Recognize the features of a scam
By now, you’re probably familiar with the Nigerian Prince scam. It’s the one where an African royal sends you an email about a large chunk of cash they’re willing to share, as long as you give them your financial details.
However, phishing scams have evolved from these humble beginnings, and scammers are getting better at concealing their true intent. They often use familiar, reputable brands as a front to convince you to click on links or send financial information.
Although they may look legitimate, they’ll reveal themselves as scams by asking you to do something genuine companies would never ask.
The IRS would never expect you to reply with your SSN in the body of your email.
A payday loan direct lender would never ask you to repay your installment loan in iTunes gift cards.
Use your judgment when reading through emails. When in doubt, check in with this guide to make sure you aren’t making a mistake you’ll regret.
Although there are privacy laws and preventative software available to protect you, ultimately, your online security is your responsibility. You need to make a choice to use apps that follow privacy regulations and create strong passwords. Actions like these can help keep your data safe whatever you get up to online.