The average person spends nearly seven hours a day online. Much of that time consists of sharing personal information with a variety of websites, which can sometimes lead to bad actors gaining unauthorized access to your personal information for ill-intended purposes.
Theft of your personal information – and subsequently, identity fraud – can have seriously damaging consequences. According to a report from the AARP, nearly 42 million Americans fell victim to identity fraud in 2021, costing $52 billion in losses.
You can proactively take three easy steps to protect and keep track of your personal information online.
1. Keep your information updated. Outdated information can lead to problems for your online accounts.
If an old online account that you no longer use has outdated information such as a previous home address where you no longer live, or an email address you haven’t used recently, that information can sometimes be used to access your current online accounts. If a hacker has access to those details, they could potentially use that information for criminal activity such as making unauthorized transfers from your bank account.
Solution: Make sure your information – name, email address, phone number, mailing address, etc. – is up to date across any websites you use frequently. This may include online shopping, financial information, medical records, email accounts, and/or social media networks. It’s also a good idea to delete any online accounts you no longer use and/or remove any out-of-date information from those accounts.
2. Switch up your passwords. Using the same password for too long, or for multiple accounts, can make it easy for hackers to obtain your personal information.
Creating a secure password that’s also easy to remember can be a challenge. Many hackers will try to guess your password based on common information that’s easy to remember, such as birthdates, anniversaries, names of family members or pets, or street addresses.
Solution: Change your password at least every six months for any websites where you’ve shared your personal information, and make sure this password can’t be easily guessed. Avoid special dates, names, or street addresses.
Using a password manager can help you generate stronger passwords and keep track of existing ones across multiple online accounts, while safely storing and protecting your login information in one place.
3. Add two-factor authentication when possible. Without it, hackers can more easily break into your accounts and gain access to your personal information.
Two-factor authentication adds a second layer of defense against people who try to gain access to your online accounts without your permission. Without it, a hacker only needs to obtain your email address and guess your password to get into your account and steal your personal information.
Solution: Enable two-factor authentication for as many of your online accounts as possible. When this feature is turned on, a temporary code will be sent to your phone or email inbox whenever you attempt to log in to your account. Since hackers will not have access to this code, they will not be able to access your account.
Identity theft is a serious concern with potentially severe consequences. Avoid any unnecessary risk by:
- Keeping your information up to date
- Changing your passwords often
- Adding two-factor authentication when possible
By taking these proactive steps, you can drastically reduce your risk of falling victim to identity theft while maintaining control of your personal information online.
 Oberlo. 2022. How Much Time Does the Average Person Spend on the Internet? https://www.oberlo.com/statistics/how-much-time-does-the-average-person-spend-on-the-internet
 AARP. 2022. Identity Fraud Hit 42 Million People in 2021. https://www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/info-2022/javelin-report.html