In today’s era, it’s easier for hackers to access your personal information with fake accounts and fake emails. Hence, protecting your data when you go online is important. You want to safely surf the net without clicking on suspicious links or opening attachments that can fill your computer with malware. You also want to know that when you visit sites, you can make purchases without your identity being compromised.

Here are a few important ways you can protect yourself online:

Reduce information you provide to apps

In an effort to make our lives easier, many people sign up for apps that require personal information.  While you may believe you are only providing some common information like your name and phone number, many apps collect far more of your data in the background. Common apps that provide weather information, music streaming services and even workout apps all may be collecting your physical location while you use the app and even when you are not using it.

Common dating apps use more than the photo you provide and basic romantic interests. In fact, a recent investigation by found that when users sign up for dating apps like Tinder or Match, they may unknowingly give the company the right to store, use, copy and display information from Facebook and they can use any info you send to others. Put simply, those private messages you send to matches could be made public.

The problem is even more wide spread than you may think. In this same report, explains that parent company InterActiveCorp (IAC) owns many of the top dating apps like OKCupid, BlackPeopleMeet, Tinder, Match and many others. Sean McGrath points out in this report that, “A monopoly on dating apps represents a single point of failure from a privacy point of view. What happens to your data when one of the company’s systems is hacked? Even if you never used that particular service, you could find your deepest secrets are compromised.”

Set up fraud alerts

Most credit card companies and banks will let you set up free alerts. You can receive an alert if your account has been hacked or compromised. Or, receive a message if someone tries to use your social security number.

There are 3 different types of alerts you can set up:

  1. Use a fraud alert to make a lender verify your identity before they extend credit. Fraud alerts will typically need to be renewed every 3 months.
  2. A credit freeze can stop anyone from opening new lines of credit in your name. Contact the 3 credit bureaus (Equifax, TransUnion, Experian) to set this up. Contact them to unfreeze your credit when you’re ready to open a new line of credit.
  3. A credit lock is a temporary freeze you can use to stop anyone from using your credit cards. Most major credit card companies offer this and you can conveniently lift the freeze when you’re ready to make purchases.

Password-protect all your devices

When you password-protect your mobile devices and smartphones it makes it harder for a thief to access your information. You should auto-lock your display screens to lock after a minute or two. When you’re back on your device for an extended period of time, set it for a longer time frame. The auto-lock feature stops anyone from reading your incoming messages or using your devices. 

Use two-factor passwords for your accounts

Setting a two-factor authentication makes it harder for someone to hack your devices. Let’s say you use the same password for every site you visit. If a hacker sends you a fake email page that you log into, they’ll know your password and can try it out for your other accounts. Two-step passwords are used by banks and credit card companies and you should set it up for your email accounts (work, school and personal).

Never shop from hotels, internet cafes or the airport

A big mistake people make is they “pass the time” shopping on a public server. They’re not aware that hackers can use third-party tools to redirect your device. This is referred to as a man-in-the-middle (MITM) attack. An attacker can alter the communications between you and the third-party site you’re visiting. You could be displaying all your personal information giving them the opportunity to steal your identity. Instead, if you’re on a public server, use a virtual private network (VPN). It’s a safe way to get online without your identity or internet service provider (ISP) being displayed.

Create strong(er) passwords

If your passwords are your date of birth and your bank pin, it might be easy for hackers to gain access to your information. Use random passwords and add letters and symbols. Update or change your passwords every few months. You can store your passwords through your internet security provider so you won’t have to remember them all.

Routinely update all your software

Depending on your internet virus protection, it might offer to run automatic updates. Select this option to run routine updates for all your devices. It will check for software updates and it can help ensure you’re not prone to attacks from hackers.

Don’t include personal data online and never open attachments or links

When you need to share personal information like your date of birth or social security number, call and provide this to the actual company. Never send it online or in a random call you receive as it might be a phishing scam.

When you receive attachments or links from companies or people you don’t know, never open these. They might suspiciously look like a real bank or delivery service. If it’s stating it’s your bank, for example, close out of email and go to your bank’s site instead. If it’s a delivery service, never click on links in the email. Open a new window and look up the delivery service.

Your antivirus solution can monitor your emails and the latest antivirus software uses layered protection and artificial intelligence (AI). It uses historical data from other phishing attacks to protect you on your devices by blocking suspicious activity. These are all ways to help safeguard your data.