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Online Safety Tips To Protect Your Personal Information

Using the internet in your own home feels like a safe and private activity. Yet, the virtual world isn't without real-world dangers.

Posting on social media, browsing, and shopping online creates a trail of personal data. Another internet user might find and exploit this data — like a hunter following animal tracks. What you do online could expose you to illegal activity like scams and identity theft.

Preventing these issues is often much easier than dealing with them after they happen. In this section, learn how to protect your personal details online. You can also explore your legal options and consumer rights protections when a problem arises.

Set Strong Passwords

Passwords have been a target since their invention. New technology has built better ways to keep your confidential information safe. But password-cracking tactics have become more complex and deceptive than ever.

You can keep your passwords secure by taking the following steps:

  • Set a memorable password or use a password generator to suggest a hard-to-guess code
  • Make a unique password for every account you have
  • Enable multifactor authentication (MFA), which means any attempt to log in will need your approval through another route, such as your email or cell phone
  • Change your passwords routinely, especially if you believe any of your online accounts were compromised
  • Never tell anyone your password, even if they seem trustworthy

With so many online accounts, remembering all your passwords could seem next to impossible. Writing them down isn't safe because anyone might find them.

Digital password managers can keep all your passwords in one place. But be careful. Password managers also need you to practice good cybersecurity habits to protect your other accounts effectively.

Shield Your Credit Card Details

Online shopping can be another critical failure point for your security. Cybercriminals use many tactics like spoofing, phishing, and malware to get access to your money. Online businesses may be liable for data breaches if they lack proper security for customers' payment details.

Be wary of sending your credit card information to anyone online. Consider using a more secure payment option like PayPal or a virtual credit card. These options obscure your real credit card number to the person you're paying.

Call your credit card company or bank immediately if you suspect that someone has your credit or debit card information. They can help you lock the card and get a replacement. You may also follow your card provider's process to dispute a charge, but a refund may not be possible in all cases.

Limit Connections on Social Media

Social networking accounts can reveal sensitive information — and not just about your own life. Your posts could also reveal details of your friends' and family's lives.

There are many tools to stay safe on social media, including strict privacy settings. Curating your online friends and followers is a simple way to limit who can see your information. Also, check that an online profile belongs to the person you know in real life instead of someone pretending to be that person.

Verify Sources and Senders

Whether you're clicking a link or opening an email, always check that it is legitimate. Bad actors can pretend to be reputable companies and familiar people to trick you into trusting them.

Review the website or message to confirm it belongs to the person or business you expected. Learn how to check the safety of a message or website in FindLaw's article about phishing and spoofing.

Keep Children Safe Online

Children and teens can encounter danger through many online activities, such as:

  • Messaging on social media platforms and apps
  • Playing online games
  • Downloading videos and other content
  • Posting on anonymous forums
  • Livestreaming and video posting
  • Making in-game or in-app purchases
  • Underage sexting and accessing inappropriate content

Kids of any age might face problems like cyberbullying, stalking, and harassment. A child's online risks can also shift as they grow up. FindLaw's Online Safety for Kids guide can help you understand the laws and parental controls that protect children online.

Confront Internet Safety Issues Urgently

Online scams and identity theft are like wildfire. They often spread in a matter of minutes. Access to one account sometimes helps hackers get into others' accounts, which may include your loved ones' accounts.

These cybercrimes can destroy a victim's credit history, reputation, and privacy. State and federal laws give you rights when someone steals your information. You probably won't know who took your information, but you may still have recourse under these laws.

An internet consumer attorney's mission is to fix the problem and reverse the damage as much as possible. Clearing your name and regaining control of your accounts can let you return to normal life.

Learn More About Internet Law and Safety

Browse the topics below to read about cybersecurity and internet consumer law. You can also look up technical terms related to your online safety in FindLaw's tech law glossary.

Learn About Online Safety

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

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