Student Editor: Andrea G.
Millennials cannot live without the Internet. It’s become harder and harder to remember a world where you actually had to wait for an answer, actually go to the store, and keep in touch with someone on the other side of the world. Now we can do things faster, better and with the touch of a finger. Even though the Internet has given us the ability to do things faster and more efficiently, there are many risks of giving out your personal information online that could make you vulnerable for identity theft.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, a government agency that protects consumers, identity theft is defined as someone wrongfully acquiring or using someone else’s personal information, credit accounts or bank accounts. In recent years, identity theft has grown because consumers give out their personal information on a daily basis for simple things such as accessing their bank accounts online, interacting in social media, or online shopping. As consumers, we don’t think twice about sharing our personal information online. This can be very dangerous since identity thieves can hack into the things we do online and gain access to our personal information. With just a few bits of personal information such as name, address, social security number or credit card information, an identity thief can use your information to open new bank accounts, use your money, and even receive your tax returns!
But don’t panic! Here are several steps you can take to protect your identity and use the Internet safely:
Don’t give out personal information on social media. Refrain from sharing your full name, address, telephone numbers, or credit card information online. You never know who has access to your information.
When giving out information, make sure the website is secured. When it is necessary to give out some personal information, make sure that the website is secured. You will know this when there is a picture of a lock right before the URL on the upper left-hand corner of your screen. Another indication of a secured website is when the URL begins with https:// instead of http://. Make sure that the website is secured before giving out information!
Look at your credit reports annually. Even if you don’t have credit, checking your credit report on an annual basis will ensure that your personal information and your credit are safe. A great resource is annualcreditreport.com, a free government-sponsored website that gives you access to your credit reports each year.
Report identity theft. A vital part of protecting yourself and others from identity theft is reporting it when it happens. Time is key when it comes to identity theft in order to protect your identity, your money and others. For more information on the next steps to take once you are a victim of identity theft, please visit https://www.identitytheft.gov/#what-to-do-right-away.
The Internet is a fun resource, but please remember to be cautious of your personal information. Better safe than sorry!