4 Ways to Protect Yourself From Identity Fraud

For starters, have you thought about using a password manager.? Well, why not?

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By Thomas Smale

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While people in their 50s and 60s have yet to live online to the degree that their grown children do, generations Y and X are completely at ease shopping, banking and watching movies from their favorite device, easily accessible to the web.

Related: Make Your Businesses Invulnerable to Corporate Identity Theft

That degree of online activity makes identity fraud a bigger concern than ever. After all, Google and Facebook are now able to track consumer behavior. Machine-learning technology continues to grow. And, with Congress's recent repeal of online privacy regulations adopted by the Federal Communications Commission last October, it's no wonder consumers fear identity fraud violations.

If you're one of them, here are some ways you can protect yourself:

1. Take advantage of password managers.

Your first -- and sometimes last -- line of defense online is your password. Many business owners, however, don't take this issue seriously.

With brute force cracking attacks becoming more prevalent on WordPress sites, it may be only a matter of time before hackers break into your site, too, leaving you without access.

To thwart such threats, you first need a good password. Second, you should take advantage of a password manager like LastPass, which allows you to create and store unique passwords for your many online accounts. Today, entrepreneurs use more tools and online accounts to manage their business than ever before. Using the same password for every account is asking for trouble.

Hackers and identity thieves are using the latest technology to try to break into your online accounts. You should counteract them with cutting-edge technology as well.

2. Use multi-factor authentication.

If you're uncomfortable with the idea that a password is the only thing standing between hackers and your sensitive information or bank accounts, you should be using multi-factor authentication.

Related: 4 Ways to Protect Yourself Against Identity Theft

Duo Security allows you to utilize a variety of secondary authentication or two-factory authentication methods for logging into the various apps you use; these methods include push-notifications, Universal 2nd Factor, phone calls and one-time passcodes. These strategies make it significantly harder for identity thieves to break into your accounts, since they would have to know your password and have stolen your device. Duo Security offers a free plan for up to 10 users, so there's simply no excuse for not utilizing this technology.

Etsy, the go-to online marketplace for handmade goods, has reported being a satisfied customer of Duo Security. As attackers became more sophisticated in their methods, Etsy said it rcognized the need to secure its online community. Duo offered a hassle-free way to protect its 600-plus user base.

Though using multi-factor authentication may slow down your log-in process, the peace of mind that comes from implementing it is easily worth the tradeoff.

3. Purge spam from your inbox.

Spam doesn't just fill up your inbox, though that in itself is a major annoyance. Opening the wrong emails or clicking on the wrong links could lead to data loss, a corrupt OS or even data theft. Attackers have gotten smarter with time, and have come up with many sneaky ways of getting hold of your information. The best way to stop this from happening is to block these emails from ever reaching your inbox.

MailWasher is a comprehensive solution that blocks spam for most types of inboxes, including Gmail, Yahoo Mail, Hotmail, Thunderbird and other popular platforms. With the free version, you can protect one email address, and the Pro version gives you the ability to secure multiple email addresses.

There are many tools you could be using to keep your inbox from accumulating excess junk. The point here is to stop these emails from reaching you at all, to reduce your risk significantly. Even within your organization, you may have peoplewho are less savvy with computers. By keeping spam from reaching their inboxes, you can prevent the inevitable damage.

4. Be proactive and practical.

Though technology can help you secure your accounts, identity theft can occur in everyday life. Here are several tips to help you stay safe:

  • Beware of what you share on social media. The more data you provide -- such as your location or email address -- the easier it becomes for attackers to find where you are and track you down. A phone number alone can make it easier for thieves to find more information on who you are, where you live, how to contact you and so on.
  • Keep an eye on your bank and credit accounts. Report unusual activity immediately. Your bank should have identity protection fraud and will look out for suspicious activity, but it's good practice to be aware of every time you withdraw money or use your card.
  • Don't send personal information via email. You might see occasional requests in your inbox from the companies you do business with. Ignore these, or contact these vendors directly. In almost 100 oercebt of cases, you will find they did not request this information from you to begin with.
  • Install antivirus software on your computers. Norton Security offers a solution that includes firewall, antispyware and antispam protection. An all-in-one solution like this can help you avert disaster.
  • Do business only with trusted sites. Does the site you're dealing with have a Verisign badge on its site? Does its URL include the "s" at the end of "http?" What do online reviewers say about their service or tool? If you aren't careful, you could end up being charged for fraudulent services or products, and getting these charges revoked can be a lengthy, uphill battle. Beware.
  • Create hard-copy backups. Backing up your information and website data is a must. But storing your information on paper and removing it from cloud-based software could be an even better way to ensure no one gets access to it. Don't forget to store this information in a secure place, however.
  • Verify the identity of your customers. Ensure that you are working with real, legitimate entities. Know your customer.

Final thoughts

Keeping your information secure is getting harder than ever. Many mobile apps request access to your contact list and other sensitive data upon installation, which means that installing the wrong app could have unforeseen consequences.

Related: 5 Smart Ways to Deter Identity Theft

Stay on guard. Being a little bit skeptical can save you hours, days or even weeks and months of grief. Research whatever vendors, sites or services you plan to utilize, question any email that requests information, shred documents with personal information and look out for anyone who might be looking over your shoulder when you're entering your password or PIN.

Thomas Smale

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

Founder of FE International

Thomas Smale co-founded FE International in 2010. He has been interviewed on podcasts, blogs and also spoken at a number of industry events on online businesses, exit strategy and selling businesses.

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