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Online Privacy is Fading Fast – How to Protect Yourself

Online Privacy is Fading Fast – How to Protect Yourself

Did you know that the sensors on some Android smartphones are so advanced that they can tell if the user of the phone is most likely sitting, standing, walking or running?  Welcome to the new age of cutting-edge technology, and with it comes advances that make most of us feel very concerned when we learn just how much our computers reveal to others about our locations, interests, and more.

Private investigators and law enforcement have known for years that the more information about you available to the public, the greater at risk you are for crime, both online and off line.  Identity theft is one of many types of crimes that result from sharing too much online and with third parties, but much more serious crime can result as well.  As most major police departments can confirm, there are now many cases where a victim of rape, assault and even homicide was targeted using information or tools on the internet.  Google Maps, for example, is a handy tool for criminals to view your home, and how to get there.

With that in mind, here are several ways you can protect yourself:

#1 – Share less online, and protect your personal data

Hands down, no question about it, most victims of crime originating from the internet simply share too much information.  Investigators say that most cases of identity theft and extortion from online relationships could have been avoided had the victim shared less online.  Information is power, and that power can be used against you.  Think twice before sharing or revealing your date of birth, address, place of employment, intimate photos, and so on.  You never know who’s on the other end of the internet watching.

#2 – Put tape over your computer’s forward-facing camera lenses

Did you know that little built-in web camera that’s probably staring at you right now if you’re reading this article on a laptop, tablet or smartphone, can be turned on remotely, and even without that little light coming on to warn you?  You may assume that it’s only activated when the little green or blue light is illuminated, and only when you’ve initiated the video camera through a FaceTime or Skype call, or use it to take photos of yourself (called “selfies”) or even videos. But that’s not true.

For years now the FBI has had the ability to activate that camera on your computer, and hackers even have online forums full of photos of people doing a plethora of embarrassing things – images snapped when the hackers hacked into their computer cameras – ones that victims never even know about.

#3 – Verify all your new online contacts and relationships

If you’ve met someone on the internet, whether it’s from Linked, Match.com, Facebook, or anywhere else on the internet, be skeptical.  No matter how harmless the person seems to be, if you haven’t met in person, and you’re in regular communication with this person and are considering a more serious relationship, or want to share more with this person, verify first!  Professional background checks can screen a case for fraud, verify identity and protect you from being the next victim.  It is a great way to lower your risk.

#4 – Stay informed of developments – and check bank accounts

Sometimes you might be performing a normal action, like shopping at a popular retail store like Target prior to Christmas, when you use your debit or credit card to pay for your transactions. That’s what about 4 million Americans were doing when their card numbers reportedly got exposed to thieves.  This is just one of the many reasons why it’s good to pay in cash when possible.

Stay on top of the latest news reports, and new risks and companies that are being targeted.  Also, check your bank account online often and reporting any suspicious behavior the moment you discover it.

#5 – More advanced privacy protection methods

You could use extensive measures like folks who buy new computers and never hook them up to the Internet, or follow simple advice like creating elaborate passwords – but note that hackers have even been able to get one man’s 15-character long password by calling an online retailer and claiming he was the man who forgot his own password.  The safest option is to be skeptical, and reveal as little information as possible as a general rule.  When a store asks for your address or email, you can always decline.

If you haven’t seen it already, watch our online privacy video for more useful tips.

C. Wright
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