Hey everyone, thanks for joining me for today’s post. So, into the back-story. I was talking to a friend over the weekend about what I do online. One of his questions was, “Don’t you need to use your credit card online keep your website up?”. My answer to that was, “Well of course, every business has it’s expenses and when you work online, you’re probably going to have some virtual expenses?.”. His next question was, “Aren’t you afraid of identity theft?”. He went into detail saying that the best place to get your identity stolen is online.
This is a perfect example of what several consumers believe. They know they can save money by shopping online, paying bills online, or even make money online, but many people are scared to do these things because of identity theft. Personally, I think there are a few reasons for this…
- Our Schools Under-Educate – School was one of the best times of my life, I really enjoyed it. I can also honestly say that I learned quite a bit there. One thing I can’t say I learned much about in grade school however is…finance. I can remember a math teacher teaching us about the math of compound interest rates with regard to investments and loans, but nothing else. When we graduate, many of us have no idea what a credit score is, what a credit report is, how to access them, that identity theft exists, and how to protect yourself from it.
- Finance Is A Tabu Conversation Topic – When was the last time you talked to a friend about how much money you have in savings, how much money you plan to save, what you spent money on last month, ect…? The list can go on and on. There are so many aspects of finance that many of us don’t like to discuss with anyone, even friends and family. That being said, people who would’ve helped consumers to catch things early by sharing experience, simply don’t! Most people just don’t discuss these things with friends.
- Trying To Teach Yourself Can Be Frustrating – I just opened an investment account with Betterment.com. For the first time in my life, at 25 years old, I started to invest. My gosh did it take a lot of effort to really get a feel for what I was doing. Even though, I earned my first dollar today, I can’t say that I am completely, 100% sure I know exactly what lead to that dollar. I’ve got a good idea, but no fine details. That after a week of reading, changing allocations, and more reading! That being said, learning to understand your finances can be pretty intimidating. You’re not intimidated though, you’re here to learn!
Facts About Identity Theft
In the conversation above, my buddy explained to me that using your credit card online is the best way to become the victim of identity theft. Is that true?
The Reality – In the instance that my buddy was talking about, the crime wouldn’t even be called identity theft, it would be called credit card fraud. The reality is, there is no identity theft protection service that will protect you from credit card fraud. That task is one that is up to your lender. However, the internet is a common market for identity thieves. These thieves want nothing more than to steal your social security number and use it to access loans in your name. They know that the average consumer doesn’t know to check the security features of a website before applying for a loan, or how to research the legitimacy of the company they’re applying for the loan from. Once you have this knowledge, the internet is a pretty safe place.
Another thing my buddy was informing me of is that if you don’t ever put your personally identifiable information online, it will never make it to the world wide web? But, that’s not necessarily true either.
The Reality – Even if you never type your information online, it can still make it there. Most companies use online CRMs or Customer Relationship Managers. They are simple platforms that allow the company to track their clients and the data associated with those clients. While most of these CRMs are pretty secure, there are some out there that are less secure than a wet paper bag. In reality, these CRMs are common targets for identity thieves to shop around in. So, you don’t necessarily have to personally type your data in a website for it to end up online somewhere.
Finally, my buddy hit the nail on the head when he said, “So, if I’m careful when using the internet, I can buy things with no extra risk of identity theft?”
The Reality – Absolutely! You just have to know how to protect yourself from the thieves!
Protecting Yourself Online From Identity Theft
It’s actually pretty simple to protect yourself from identity theft online, but, the process does include a bit of offline work too. There are four things that I generally advise people to do to protect themselves. Here they are…
#1: Understand Web Browser Security Features – I’ve used several different browsers ranging from Firefox to Google Chrome, I even used IE in the dark ages! Anyway, I’ve never come across a web browser that didn’t automatically read security features in websites, and let it’s user know if the website was secure or not. When you are on a secure credit card application for instance, Google Chrome will display a green padlock to the left of the URL in your address bar. Internet Explorer displays a padlock to the right of the URL in the address bar. Finally, Firefox displays a padlock to the left of the URL just like Google Chrome. So, how do they know that a website is secure?
When you buy hosting for a website, you have the option to purchase an SSL security certificate. This is a certificate from your host saying that your website meets some pretty strict security guidelines and is deemed safe to collect fragile data. Data like credit card numbers, birth days, and social security numbers. These secured servers used to host these sites relay security information to your browser which then displays that information to you in a simple icon!
#2: Trust The Site Before Applying Or Purchasing – Working with companies that you would generally work with online is usually a surefire way to insure that you will have a good, secure online experience. If you don’t know who the company is that you’d like to make a purchase with, or apply for a loan through, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t work with those companies; it means that you should do a bit of research before making your purchase or applying for that loan or service.
Research is pretty simple. Just type the name of the company into Google with the word “reviews” behind it. For instance, if I wanted to learn more about First Progress credit cards, I’d type something like “First Progress credit card reviews” into Google and click search. When doing this, keep in mind that most websites have affiliate relationships with advertisers, as do I. The only problem with this is that some websites will lie about a product to make the $10 – $300 commission they may make if you sign up. That, I don’t do, and I’m not alone. There are tons of bloggers that are incredibly honest, even if they will lose sales over it. To find them, all you have to do is read several reviews. If the review only talks about good and doesn’t delve too deeply into the bad, chances are, you want to move to the next review. Before working with a company you’ve just heard of, read 5 to 10 reviews and make an educated decision.
#3: Keep Track Of Your Credit Report And Financial Accounts – This is one of those tips that will protect you online and off. Although, you won’t prevent identity theft this way, by stopping the process early, you can save your self tons of money and hassle. Take a look at your credit report at least once a month and see if there are any new loans that you didn’t know about that pop up. Also keep tabs on your checking, savings, investment and credit card accounts regularly. If you see any changes that you didn’t personally make, you just noticed an early sign of identity theft!
#4: Sign Up For An Identity Theft Protection Service – Because there is a real need for credit monitoring and identity theft, there have been several companies that have popped up to do just that. Some companies only provide credit scores while others provide complete monitoring and protection of your identity. Most of them are relatively inexpensive. The cost generally ranges from $15 to $25 per month for individual protection or $25 to $35 per month for family protection. Now for the shameless plug of an identity theft protection service that I have an affiliate relationship with(Yes, that means I get paid if you sign up, read my affiliate disclosure here).
Not only do I have an affiliate relationship with this company, I trust them with my identity. Go check ’em out….Click here to visit TrustedID!
Posts About Protecting Yourself From Identity Theft Around The Web
Even Fox News discusses the risks of identity theft to college students!
Have you ever been the victim of identity theft? Do you do extra things to protect yourself from online identity theft?