If the past 12 months have taught you anything about your online safety, it’s that you can’t trust anyone but yourself to protect your data. Data breaches are on the rise as cybercriminals have capitalized on lockdown conditions to target vulnerable self-isolators and defraud them of their information and money.
If you expect to protect your data from their attempts, you need to make digital security a priority in the year to come. Here are three simple ways to strengthen your digital security in 2021.
1. Use a VPN
A VPN — or virtual private network — is an encryption program that masks your online activity and location. More specifically, it scrambles your unique IP address with other users on the same server, making it impossible to track or sell your web browsing traffic.
Besides hiding your private info, the other benefits to using a VPN include reducing data-throttling, limiting bandwidth-throttling, and accessing geo-blocked content.
2. Share Your Information Carefully
A VPN will only shield information that normally gets logged automatically, but it won’t help you if you willingly share your data with the wrong people. That’s totally up to you, so it’s crucial you know how to spot a scam.
Scams come in all shapes and sizes, but they all boil down to an individual or company asking you to share information when they don’t have a reasonable need to know your data. That’s why it’s crucial you know when it’s appropriate to share information with trusted vendors.
This fluctuates depending on what you’re doing online. If you shop online, retailers will need to know your billing address and payment details, but they don’t need your social security number.
If you’re looking for an online consumer loan, online direct lenders may need your social security number to assess your creditworthiness, but only if you’re applying.
This distinction is important. Let’s say you’re searching for an answer to the question: what is a consumer loan. If you visit multiple online direct lenders to learn more, you won’t need to share any information when using each site as a resource.
However, suppose you decide to apply for an online installment loan or payday loan. In that case, you’ll need to share your social security number, banking details, and contact information to complete an application.
3. Do Background Checks
Just because it’s standard for a retailer or online lender to see your information in specific circumstances doesn’t mean all retailers and online direct lenders deserve it. Some fraudsters pose as a legitimate online service to trick you into sharing your data.
In most cases, their website will show obvious red flags:
- No mailing address or incomplete contact information
- Spelling and grammatical errors, broken links
- A lack of privacy, security, or return policies
- No padlock or HTTPS in its URL
While a quick scroll through their site will reveal these signs, it’s always a good idea to look online for reviews as a safeguard. Type into Google the company name + scam to see what comes up.
Strengthening your digital security isn’t always easy, but these steps will make sure you’re better protected in the new year!