Be mindful of your online behavior.
The websites you frequent—and the details you post—may increase your vulnerability.
10. Tighten your social media feeds.
“A would-be hacker can piece a lot of information about people who have public social media accounts,” says Turner, “including their names, addresses, birthdays, family members' names, and so on.” Change your privacy settings so that only people you know can see what you post, and minimize the amount of personal information you broadcast publicly. Consider: Do you want just anyone having access to photos of your children, the inside of your home, and your political or religious views? To thwart bad actors, never geotag your whereabouts, don’t fill out “fun” questionnaires, and decline friend requests from strangers. Keep in mind that whenever you like or share anyone else’s content, your activity is tracked and collected.
11. Protect your kids.
Make full use of the privacy settings or available parental controls on any devices and accounts that children can access, including games. This will help prevent them from landing on inappropriate content, spending money, and becoming targets of strangers’ advances. Join all of the social media sites that your kids use, and friend or follow them. Talk openly with them about online safety and good habits.
12. Surf incognito.
When you’re navigating the web, use a secure, configured browser that protects your privacy. Why? Because unsecured browsers store a lot of information about you, which can be exploited. Securing your web browser usually involves digging into its security settings, although it varies by brand—Firefox and Brave are known for being particularly oriented toward privacy and security. Whenever possible, browse in incognito or private mode so that your online actions aren’t trackable; however, understand that even when doing so, websites can still “see” your IP address and location. If you browse over an HTTPS connection, your data is encrypted and protected from modification, and you can be confident you are communicating with the site in question, not an impersonator. Give a second thought to your search engine, too: Google and its ilk are notorious for tracking users. Consider a private search engine that doesn’t collect, store, or sell your information, such as DuckDuckGo or Startpage, which return unprofiled search results.
13. Manage your cookies.
14. Outsmart phishing and other scams.
Phishing happens when cybercriminals present themselves as someone they’re not (such as a bank, government agency, or charity) to trick you into giving them sensitive information—your Social Security number or mother’s maiden name, for instance—to steal your identity or money. Sidestep phishing and other scams by being skeptical and cautious online, especially of unsolicited emails, social media outreach, and text messages that include links that take you to “log in” using personal information. “Check the sender's domain,” advises Paul Bischoff, a privacy advocate at Comparitech, “don't click on links in unsolicited emails, and never include sensitive personal info in an email.” That includes your Social Security number, credit card numbers, and passwords. Even your age and gender can be used to single you out, Biscoff says.
15. Use identity monitoring software.
“In addition to checking credit and debit billing statements for any unauthorized purchases, I strongly recommend using a credit monitoring service,” says Chris Hauk, a consumer privacy expert at Pixel Privacy. “While monitoring services don't necessarily prevent the bad guys from hacking your accounts, they do alert you when new accounts are opened in your name, which is a vital warning sign that you've been hacked. They also track data breaches and other security threats, and alert you when they occur.” Likewise, identity monitoring programs ensure that your information isn’t being used against you, and that you don’t become one of the millions of annual victims of identity theft. AAA Members get free access to AAA Identity Champion, which provides credit and identity theft monitoring.