To my dismay, every time I buy something from a new online retailer, I have to register to create yet another user account, which means yet another password, and yet another company that may lose or sell my data or send me spam.
Fortunately, there are steps we can take in order to stay secure and protect our privacy:
1. Privatize your contact information by using a junk email address specifically for online purchases, and then forward purchase confirmations to your primary email. Use a Google Voice number when you don’t wish to give out your home or cell phone numbers.
2. Only provide personal information when absolutely essential, and provide the minimum of information needed to complete a transaction. When you do disclose this data, whether to make a purchase or for any other reason, first ensure that you know exactly who is requesting the information, and why they need it.
3. Create strong passwords using combinations of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. Use long, strong, unique passwords for each individual account, and use a password manager to store those passwords in the cloud and allow access across various devices. Separate passwords for every account help to thwart cybercriminals. Never use the same password twice.
4. Own your online presence by setting any available privacy and security options according to your comfort level regarding information sharing. It’s okay to limit the information you share, and who you share it with. Keep an eye out for little boxes that need to be unchecked to avoid additional marketing communications.
5. Make an effort to keep yourself informed and current by checking trusted websites for the latest threats and newest ways to stay safe online. Encourage friends, family, and colleagues to be web-wise by sharing this information.
6. Think before you act. Be wary of communications that implore you to act immediately, offer something that sounds too good to be true, or ask for personal information.