Do you remember your first taste of technology? I can’t speak for everyone’s experiences, but the majority of answers likely include the following: the invention of the internet, your first personal computer, and the purchase of your first cell phone.

At one point, these advancements were chalked up to be nothing more than a futuristic fever dream. But look at us today. Billions of people around the world use the internet daily. Over 74 percent of Americans either own a desktop or a laptop computer. And three billion consumers own a smartphone, a number that is projected to increase by several hundred million over the next few years. 

We live in a digitized world, and it’s only going to continue progressing at a rapid rate. Some people love the accessibility, interconnectivity, and convenience of technology, but others aren’t as comfortable with technology’s vastness and perviousness. And for good reason. 

The dark side of technology

Technology is revered by humanity because of its transformative influence. We have an entire world of information at our fingertips. We can find anything — from furniture to love — without leaving the comfort of our homes.

But there’s a side of technology that sometimes just doesn’t sit right. It’s a side we don’t often talk about because we’d rather enjoy the benefits of digitization rather than face its consequences. But I can’t tell you how irresponsible this is. The more technology becomes enmeshed with our lives, the more we compromise our security. Think cybersecurity attacks or online scams won’t happen to you? You’re playing a dangerous game.

Just last year, Capital One was breached by a Seattle-based hacker who gained access to millions of credit card applications. In the same year, Facebook somehow exposed millions of their user’s phone numbers, which can easily be traced back to their Facebook accounts. Romance scams reportedly cost Americans over $200 million in 2019 alone. And while we’re on the subject of dating: sexual predators actively use online dating apps like Tinder to meet their victims, and a percentage of sexual assault incidents can be linked back to conversations starting on these profiles. And it doesn’t stop there. 

Danger lurks around every virtual corner, but protecting yourself online doesn’t have to mean swearing off technology altogether. There are certain precautions you can take so that you can be safe and active online.

Protect your digital freedom

If you do everything in your power to protect yourself against fraud, scams, and other threats, you make yourself less vulnerable. Many uninformed consumers put themselves at risk because they don’t realize the type of perils they’re up against, so they don’t take the necessary precautions to safeguard themselves against incidents that could have otherwise been prevented — which most are.

You’ve already heard the obvious safety measures: use secure passwords, limit the personal information you share online, and never share your financial information with strangers. But people want to know what else they can do to protect themselves online.

One approach is to be suspicious of everything. Did you receive an email or text from someone you don’t know? Do your research before you respond or click on any links. Scammers use artificial intelligence to lure unsuspecting victims to a fake site where they’re asked about their personal or financial information. Or, are you talking to someone that you matched with on an online dating app? Always be on the lookout for red flags that are the early indicators of a romance scam.

One way to really take control of your digital freedom is to research everything and everyone. Platforms like feature Reputation Profiles of almost every adult in the United States that include important information like criminal records, someone’s marital status, and whether or not they’ve been reported for any wrongdoings in the past. This is the kind of information you need to know in order to discern whether or not you’re putting yourself at risk. 

Technology is incredible, and it’s only going to continue to surpass our every expectation. But as our world becomes more digitized, scammers and predators get more advanced at manipulating technology to their advantage. You can’t stop bad people from doing bad things, but you can make sure that won’t ever risk becoming a victim.