Identity Theft

3 Ways to Protect Your Personal Information Online

July 18, 2022
by Max Lewis, Cal Poly Student

Ensuring the safety of your personal information in a digital landscape is no easy feat — especially with how advanced technology and the internet are these days. According to the Federal Trade Commission, 44% of people ages 20 to 29 lose money to fraud, which is twice as many than people ages 70 to 79. It is becoming increasingly important for young adults to educate themselves about data protection and start taking precautions to safeguard their sensitive personal information.

Falling for a scam seems really common these days, but there are measures that you can take to protect yourself and prevent the leakage of your data on the internet.

Check out these three tips for protecting your personal information:

1. Practice Good Cyber Hygiene

Nearly 60% of Gen Z-ers, the generation known for having been “brought up” on technology, said that they have not received education about safety online. This is why it is imperative that young adults begin practicing good cyber hygiene.

Similar to regular hygiene, cyber hygiene refers to the best practices and habits that help maintain your personal information and prevent the spread of your data online. Through the utilization of these practices, you can always be one step ahead of a scam and stop the spread of your information.

Be sure to create strong passwords for each login you have. The longer your password the better, and be sure to include special characters and upper and lower case letters (try inserting them in random places). Avoid using words that can be found in the dictionary, or personal references to yourself that a hacker might be able to guess after taking a look at your social media profile — like your favorite baseball player or the name of your pet.

Create unique passwords for each login because it lessens the chances of a hacker getting into a multitude of your accounts. If a hacker discovers one password, they will try it on other sites. A password manager is a handy tool for keeping track of all passwords. Enabling two-factor authentication wherever possible adds another layer of protection.

In addition, make sure your device’s software is up-to-date, and review your security settings.

2. Watch Out for Scams

The internet has made us more connected than ever, but unfortunately, it has also made scammers more connected than ever too. Fortunately, education is our greatest tool for protecting ourselves against scams.

Scammers use social media, email, pop-ups, ads, and even fake websites to try and trick you into clicking a link or downloading malware in an effort to get your personal information or take your money. Sometimes they’ll pretend to be someone you know personally or an organization you trust. Sometimes they pose as love interests, or prospective landlords or employers.

So what should you do if you suspect a scam? Don’t click on any links or attachments in suspicious emails, and report the scam attempt to the FTC to help others avoid being scammed. To investigate and confirm the validity of a link, you can hover over it with your mouse to take a look at the website’s URL. . Use caution when exploring online, avoid clicking on ads for unknown websites. Be aware that pop-ups that include a “cancel” or “close” button may be trying to get you to click the ad — look for the “x” in the top right or left corner instead. Check the security settings on your web browser and email, and you might also consider adding a layer of security with antiphishing software.

3. Check Your Apps

Apps are convenient, but be sure to do your due diligence when you download, since apps can collect quite a bit of personal data from you. First, make sure you are only downloading official apps from your device’s official app store. Then, check your device’s security settings and review permissions for each app installed. It’s a good idea to do a periodic audit of your settings to make sure everything is to your preferences. Finally, it may be time to do a little spring-cleaning on your device, deleting apps you don’t use or that you can access the content from a browser website instead.

Defending your personal data from cyber criminals can be an arduous task, but education is the best line of defense — and now you have a few tips and tricks you can use to keep your data secure. Spread the word and share with your family and friends to help make sure they’re protected too.