Protecting Yourself From Identity Theft � Personal Finance According to the Department of Justice, there were 17.6 million U.S. residents who were victims of identity theft in 2014. This number is frightening enough to those of us who haven�t been victims, but for those who have been, it�s even more frightening. With more and more of us spending time online for shopping, banking and keeping in contact with our friends and family, it�s important to understand how important it is to protect yourself online. Strong Passwords Matter One of the first steps in protecting your identity online is creating a password that cannot be easily obtained by hackers or someone else who will use it to steal your identity. There have been numerous stories about people who have used �password� or �12345� for their password. Avoid pet and children�s names, dates of birth and other personally identifiable information. Also make sure you do not share your passwords with anyone, regardless of how much you trust them. Smart Following of Links Email availability has created a whole new world for identity thieves. Oftentimes, people see emails from PayPal, their banks or other financial institutions stating there have been holds or stops placed on their accounts. These emails typically contain a link for you to �reset� your information but the fact is that these links go someplace else where your identity is stolen. Financial institutions will not request personal information via email; they�ll contact you directly by phone or snail mail. If you get a link in email, don’t click on the link; instead go directly to the site by typing the name of the site right into your search bar to determine if you’ve actually been contacted by your institution. Social Media Sharing Caution Many of us contact friends, family members and share vacation and other information on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. Too often, we share information that we�re not going to be home which can allow identity thieves to scope out our homes and collect mail that could have personally identifiable information while we are away. Keep your private information including your address private while on social media sites to minimize the potential of having your identity stolen. Identity theft is unfortunately on the rise. Thieves who can command the use of your name and other personally identifiable information may set up financial accounts including bank accounts, take out mortgages and open credit cards in your name. Too often, you will not find out that your identity has been stolen until you try to take out a home or car loan. These are some basic things you can do to prevent identity theft online. However, keep in mind, any information you post online stays available. Keep yourself as safe as possible. Source: U.S. Department of Justice; September 2015, NCJ 248991, Victims of Identity Theft, 2014