Yesterday, you paid your credit card bill on your smartphone and you bought yourself some new socks from a big box store’s website on your laptop. You also checked social media from your tablet and you paid your bills on your desktop computer.
In other words, you have a pretty active digital life. It is easy, convenient and often fun to get things done on your various devices — not to mention being a huge time saver.
Unfortunately, there can be a dark side to your digital life, and it comes in the form of security breaches, data hacks and identity theft. To safely do the online tasks that you enjoy and are helpful to you, consider the following tips.
Watch for Fake Banking and Other Apps
As Bankrate notes, fake banking apps are a major threat to your online security. Unfortunately, they look like real apps from major banks and they can trick unsuspecting people into entering their login information. To help make online banking more secure, be sure you are downloading the correct and verified bank app onto your smartphone. Many banks will feature a link to the app store right on their website; if you have questions, call the bank and make sure you are downloading the correct app.
Buy an Identity Theft Program With Added Protection
Another solid way to help protect your digital life is to purchase an identity theft plan that focuses on monitoring the information stored on your various devices. For instance, LifeLock now has Norton 360 protection; this includes a password manager that will safely and securely store all of your passwords as well as bank account information — no more jotting down your passwords on a piece of scrap paper or constantly redoing them because they are easy to forget.
Norton LifeLock also includes real-time threat protection advanced security that helps guard against malware threats. Also, if your Social Security number, name, address or birthday are used in an application for credit or another service, you will receive an alert.
Shop, Bank and Catch Up on Facebook at Home
It is understandably tempting to multitask while in a long line at the supermarket, paying a few bills online and maybe checking Instagram. But as Real Simple notes, if you are using public Wi-Fi to do these and other online tasks, you could put your personal data and financial info at risk.
Unsecured Wi-Fi connections in public places are often visited by crooks who are also signed on and waiting for a nice person like you to pay your bill while waiting to get to the front of the line. If you insist on doing online shopping and bill paying when you are in a coffee shop, grocery store or another public place, look into a virtual private network (VPN), which is usually more secure. Tom’s Guide has a handy guide to some reputable and free options.
Trust Your Gut
Sooner or later, you will receive an e-mail from your bank that looks real, but it’s actually a phishing attempt. Or you will be shopping for something and encounter a website that, well, just seems sort of shady. If and when this happens and alarm bells are going off in your head, trust them and do not open any links in the e-mail or put in your personal data on the site.
Make sure all sites you visit have an URL that starts with “https”—the “s” means “secure” and that data on the site is encrypted. And when an e-mail like that shows up, call whoever is claiming to send it, they may want you to forward it to their fraud department and they can also verify if it’s real or fake.
Being Proactive and Smart Is the Way to Go
You don’t have to go back to shopping only in brick-and-mortar stores, paying bills by check and/or meeting people in person to catch up. By being aware of fake apps, staying off public Wi-Fi, investing in an identity theft program and trusting your instincts, you can continue to enjoy an active digital life in a smart and successful way.