More Americans are receiving alerts notifying them that their Social Security number or other login information was detected on the dark web, a section of the internet hidden to most mainstream web browsers. Your nine-digit SSN and other logins hold a lot of private and valuable information, making them an appealing target for cybercriminals.
While this rise in theft is a cause for concern, there are several steps you can take to keep your information safe.
1. Use multifactor authentication.
This gives you an extra layer of protection by requiring at least two verification steps to access your account. You can also use an authentication application instead of text or email.
2. Use unique passwords.
Don’t use the same password for every account. Use longer passwords with a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, as well as numbers and at least one special character.
3. Update antivirus software.
Antivirus software is designed to protect your devices from potential attacks. Keep antivirus software on your phone, tablet, computer and smart devices up-to-date or enable automatic updates.
4. Use a VPN.
A VPN, or virtual private network, is a service that protects your internet connection and privacy online. A VPN can prevent fraudsters, spammers and advertisers from seeing your online activity.
5. Create a my Social Security account.
Create a free my Social Security account with the Social Security Administration. You can review your earnings on your Social Security statement to ensure your information is correct and place a credit freeze if necessary. Creating an account also stops anyone else from creating one in your name.
6. Monitor your credit.
Get a credit report from sites like GOFreeCredit. Check for accounts or charges you don’t recognize and continue to check your reports annually. You can also sign up for regular alerts that notify you of any changes to your credit report.
7. Check your bank and credit card accounts daily.
Make sure you recognize every transaction. You can also sign up for transaction monitoring alerts through your financial institution to alert you to any suspicious activity.
8. Consider a credit freeze.
If you see or suspect anything suspicious, you can place a credit freeze. A credit freeze restricts access to your credit report, which means you and others won’t be able to open a new credit account while the freeze is in place.
9. Place a fraud alert on your credit report.
You can place a free fraud alert with the three major credit bureaus. A fraud alert tells lenders and creditors to take extra measures when verifying your identity.
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