Identity Theft: A Serious Internet Privacy Concern
If you don't take internet privacy protection seriously, you greatly increase the risk of identity theft, which is an ever-increasing problem as technology becomes more integrated with everyday life. The U.S. Department of Justice defines identity theft as the wrongful capture of another person's personal information and the use of that data for illegal purposes - most commonly for financial gain.
For the past 12 years, identity theft has topped the list of consumer complaints with the Federal Trade Commission, and the rate of these crimes increased by 13 percent in 2011, according to the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. As technology advances, there are more options to protect your data, but The Detroit Free Press points out that this also means hackers are learning new ways to circumvent these safeguards.
"In the last five years, the bad guys have gotten just as good as or better than the good guys," Robert Siciliano, a security expert for online security company McAfee, told the publication.
In addition to security programs such as those offered by McAfee, you can take other steps to protect yourself against identity theft. Every time you sign up for an online service, shop online or are otherwise required to submit any personal information, you should take the time to research the website before freely giving away your name, email address and other data.
Always read the fine print. It may seem easier and faster to simply click the "agree" button and move on to the next step when signing up for something online, but you may be allowing a company to use your information for any number of reasons, including solicitation and selling the data to other companies for marketing purposes.
If you don't recognize a website or are unfamiliar with the company, always perform a search of the business to determine if it might be fraudulent. You can look for customer reviews and check the Better Business Bureau to see if a business is listed there. If it isn't, this may be a red flag that you should not enroll in the service or buy anything from the site.
"Based on the massive amount of information that people give away (online) and the staggering number of security breaches that occur each year, it's inevitable you're going to become a victim," Adam Levin, founder of IdentityTheft911, told the news source.
Privacy policies can sometimes be confusing, so even if you think everything is fine, you may still want to take precautions. For instance, you can keep your regular phone number private by using a second mobile number that is not connected to your personal data.