As of today, Google has unified its privacy policies across their sites (Google, Google+, YouTube, Picasa, etc.) so that your browsing data is shared among them. You can turn off this feature by removing your web history at: http://www.google.com/history/.
Many articles are swirling around the internet in regards to this recent change. As I’ve been browsing these articles, it led me to think more about online privacy and security in general.
Do you know who could use a lesson in online privacy? Students!
You’ve probably heard of identity theft before, but don’t assume yourself to be a target. Well, guess again. Students are prime targets for identity theft because they usually haven’t been taught how to protect themselves.
You may think that just because you don’t have hefty bank accounts, thieves wouldn’t target you. Identity thieves want more than money; they want your identity. This allows them to sign up for credit cards, mortgages and loans, phone numbers, and even file fraudulent tax returns under your name or social security number.
It’s scary business, especially considering that you’re the one left to clean up the mess if your identity is stolen. In addition to the inconvenience of filing a police report and calling credit card companies, cancelling services, and freezing accounts, it can severely damage your credit score and even harm your chances at getting a job.
There are some simple things to do to better protect yourself against identity theft:
1. Invest $20-$30 in a paper shredder. Shred all credit card offers, bank statements, student loan statements, and other documents containing personal information after you’ve viewed them.
2. Always logout before you exit a website. This is especially important on shared computers, such as the computer lab at school. Your lingering information can be used to login to your accounts and access more data.
3. Create a user login for your personal computer. This will provide protection in the case that your computer is stolen. For other instances, such as roommates or friends using your computer, it further protects your online data.
4. Install or update anti-virus and anti-spyware software on your personal computer. The scary part of using WI-FI internet in public places (schools, cafes, airports, etc.) is that hackers can get to your bank account numbers from purchases you’ve made online and other data that may be floating around your computer. Read more about WI-FI dangers from The Identity Theft Resource Center.
5. Carefully check your monthly bank statements for suspicious purchases. If you see anything unusual, call your bank immediately. They will be able to issue you a new card or freeze your account if needed.
6. Keep your social security card, birth certificate, and passport locked up. Buy a lock box to store them, or better yet leave them at home with your family. These documents are an identity thief’s paradise.
7. Never share your debit PIN number or other passwords to accounts. This seems like a no-brainer, but many students share information especially when living with roommates. Keep your information to yourself.
Are there any tips you know of that I missed? Tell me in the comments!