5 Things to Avoid When Online

3 April 2016

In its early days, the World Wide Web was used primarily to share data between research labs. Then, as it became more user-friendly, basic news and email services reigned supreme. Now, embedded firmly in the daily lives of almost every Canadian, it provides countless services from music and TV streaming to grocery shopping and personal banking.

With the rapid rise of the Internet has also come an inevitable slew of questions about security and privacy, concerns that have become even more poignant as both the amount of data we store online and the sophistication with which fraudsters and cybercriminals attempt to access that data continue to climb.

While cybersecurity experts have committed to creating innovative ways to combat Internet-based fraud at the systems and process levels, there are also steps individual consumers can take to better protect their identities when browsing the Web every day.

Next time you’re online, avoid these behaviours that could make you more vulnerable to identity theft:

  1. Sharing passwords between your accounts
    No matter how difficult it can be to think of another password that meets a site’s security requirements, never use the same password on more than one account. Doing so can create a snowball effect: If one of your accounts was to be compromised, suddenly all of them are at risk.
  2. Clicking on unexpected links
    If you receive an email that contains a hyperlink, think carefully before clicking on it. If you do not know the sender and did not request the email, we recommend you do not click on the link. Links can sometimes prompt your computer to download malware, or malicious software, that could compromise the information stored on your hard drive or on your online accounts. Or, it may lead to a website that looks familiar, but is actually a fake page set up to request and collect your login credentials or financial information. Even if a link comes from someone on your contacts list, be wary if you did not request it, as their email account could be compromised.
  3. Browsing on public wi-fi
    As convenient as they may be, the public wi-fi networks you can find at coffee shops or hotels are not as secure as the type of private network you have at home. Even when surfing the web on a network that requires you to log in, you are vulnerable to the actions of anyone else currently logged into the network. For example, it would be relatively easy for an identity thief to log into a hotel network and “eavesdrop” on your browsing session, watching your activity and even collecting your passwords or credit card information. For this reason, we suggest you never log into any sensitive accounts or do any online shopping when connected to a public wi-fi network.
  4. Staying logged in
    We all know how handy the “remember me” feature on a website can be – instead of logging into a website every time, the browser will simply remember your credentials for you. While this can save you a few seconds and keystrokes, it could also seriously compromise your accounts. Without the “remember me” feature, a thief who manages to steal your computer or smartphone must also possess the usernames and passwords to all of your accounts if he or she hopes to steal your identity. However, if you are already logged in, it is like handing this vital security information over to the thief on a silver platter.
  5. Using your debit card for online shopping
    Whenever you shop online, we recommend using a credit card, not your debit card, to make the purchase. In fact, it is best not to keep your debit card information on file with any of your online shopping accounts at all. If one of these accounts were compromised, your credit card could protect you much better than your debit card. When a fraudulent charge is made using a credit card, you have a chance to dispute the charge before you ever have to pay for it, keeping your hard-earned money safe while you contest the credit fraud. With a debit card, on the other hand, the funds are removed from your account as soon as the transaction is processed. At that point, it is up to you to win the dispute before any of that money can be returned to your account.

Unfortunately, no matter how careful we are while browsing the Web, there is no way to completely prevent identity theft or credit fraud. For these moments, working with a credit monitoring service can help protect your identity by monitoring for certain activity that may indicate fraud and sending you alerts. To learn more about adding this layer of protection, contact Identity Guard Canada today.