It’s a brand-new year, but the pandemic-fueled fraud that spiked in 2020 continues to climb.
During this challenging time, a bad case of identity theft is probably the last thing you need. The good news is that you can still take proactive steps to better protect your data, privacy, and identity — and Allstate Identity Protection can help.
If you’re resolving to up your digital defenses for the year ahead, try these eight tips for building safer and healthier online habits, starting today.
Set strong passwords
We’ve written about setting strong passwords in the past, and our general advice is still the same: aim for a password that is long, complicated, and totally unique. Avoid personal details and common phrases, and never use the same password twice.
If that’s just too much to remember, a password manager can do the heavy lifting.
Use two-factor authentication
Two-factor authentication, or 2FA, involves signing in with both a password and an additional verification method. This provides an extra layer of security and makes it more difficult for scammers to access your information, so it’s a good idea to enable 2FA on your important accounts.
You’re probably familiar with the most common type of 2FA, which involves entering both your password and a unique code sent to your smartphone or email address.
While this is a great first step, SMS messages can be easily intercepted. That’s why many security experts recommend using an encrypted app, such as Google Authenticator, to generate two-step verification codes.
Another dependable method of verification involves tapping a piece of hardware — known as a security key — against your device as the second factor.
Update your software
When your device pings you about software updates, don’t ignore those pop-ups. Install them right away! This is how developers push out fixes, or patches, for known security flaws, so staying up to date is an important part of staying protected.
Delete some apps, and review privacy permissions for the rest
Sadly, when you download an app, you may be agreeing to share more than you realize. In the name of optimizing user experience, app developers as well as third-party services may be granted access to your calendar, contacts, browsing history, and other bits of your data — often without your explicit permission.
This type of exposure can really erode your privacy over time. Whenever an app, site, or advertiser who is storing your data is breached, it becomes more likely that a fraudster will be able cobble together enough details to convincingly pose as you, which can lead to identity theft.
That’s why when it comes to apps, it pays to be a minimalist. If you have apps on your phone that you use infrequently, consider deleting them and using the browser page instead.
Some apps are unavoidable, though. If you’re curious about your privacy choices for a particular service, visit your account page or do an online search for “privacy settings” and the app’s name. For example, Consumer Reports recently created helpful guides for managing privacy on several popular sites, including Google, Facebook and Instagram.
Be smart about what you share
You probably already know that it’s not a good idea to overshare on social media. Scammers can manipulate details about your location or personal life to gain access to your assets or accounts.
This type of fraud has become more common in the age of COVID-19. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently reported that scams originating on social media have tripled over the last year, with people reporting more than $117 million in losses in the first half of 2020 alone.
Phishing schemes have also skyrocketed during the pandemic, with reports of fraudsters posing as contact tracers and vaccine distributors in order to steal people’s private information. Stay vigilant for the hallmarks of phishing — think blurry images, typos, and urgent calls to action — and take these simple steps to protect yourself:
- Learn to identify contact-tracing scams
- Hang up on robocalls
- Ignore offers of miracle cures, test kits, or treatments
- Be skeptical of emails claiming to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO), or the government
- Don’t click on links or open email attachments from anyone you don’t know personally
- Check online reviews before purchasing medical supplies, including face masks. Some scammers claim to sell these items online without ever actually delivering the products
- Do independent research before donating to COVID-related charities or causes
Try an encrypted app for messaging
Privacy advocates have increasingly raised concerns about the security of SMS messaging.
One solution: opt to send text messages through a messaging app with end-to-end encryption, such as Signal.
Be an advocate
In the United States today, there are no federal laws governing how data is gathered, stored, and shared. In the European Union, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was created to give people more control over their personal information; the California Consumer Privacy Act aims to do something similar in the Golden State. But it’s hard to feel safe online without a U.S.-wide framework of protection in place.
If privacy is something you’re passionate about, you can write to your representatives to advocate for fair digital protection for all consumers.
You may not be able to change federal laws, but perhaps you can use your voice to spark a small change in your community — like, say, your school district’s approach to social media.
Use our identity protection service
With so much of our lives happening online, looking after your privacy can feel overwhelming.
But if you use our product, you already have powerful defenses at your fingertips.
To make the most of them, visit the portal today and enable these key features:
- Click the ‘Dark Web Monitoring’ tab and add your digital credentials, such as credit card and account numbers, to get notified of potential exposure on the Dark Web
- Under the ‘Social Monitoring’ tab, sync your social media accounts to receive actionable alerts when we see potentially racist, derogatory, vulgar, or inappropriate comments within your social media posts
- Under the ‘Financial Transactions’ tab, add your accounts to receive alerts for cash withdrawals, balance transfers, and large purchases to help detect fraudulent activity
- Tap ‘Credit Monitoring’ to check your credit report for irregularities that may indicate fraud
Our customer care is available around the clock should any issues arise, and our generous reimbursement policy covers many of the out-of-pocket expenses associated with identity theft. Even if the worst happens, we’ve got your back — and that’s a promise we’ll keep year-round.