With the rise of the internet and the quickening pace of life, it has become more convenient to do a lot of things online——from getting in touch with loved ones, shopping and even doing bank transactions. But with these conveniences, there has been an increase in identity theft, breach of privacy, and even unauthorized transactions. To help you remain vigilant, here are some tips to stay protected online. Paranoid as they may sound, it’s better to be safe than sorry later on.

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Tip #1: Keep your birthdate private.

While you probably want people to remember your special day, perhaps you can limit the information to just the month and day. Your birthdate is generally one of the questions asked by banks to verify your identity when you do telephone or online transactions, and you wouldn't want that kind of information accessible to everyone.

Tip #2: Keep your relationships private.

Scammers can use general knowledge about your relationships to pretend to know you or loved ones and secure more information about you or worse, get money.  Similar to your birthdate, your mother’s maiden name is often used as a security question when doing telephone or online transactions.

Tip #3: Be discerning of friend requests.

Before clicking that add or confirm button, keep in mind that by including this person in your circle, you are giving him or her access to personal information that can be seen on your profile. Don’t just add anyone to get more friends, because some may just want to see when you're going on vacation and leaving your house empty--which is the perfect time for akyat-bahay groups to strike.

Tip #4: Be conscious of what you post and share online.

What you share can be used to stalk you or to assess your wealth and make you a target. There's really no need to post so much about your new luxury bag or your to flood your friends' timelines with photos of the car you recently bought. It always pays to be humble.

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Tip #5: Make sure to create strong passwords.

Passwords and two-step confirmations are ways to keep your information safe. Here are some additional tips to help keep your accounts airtight.

  • Change passwords regularly. Don’t keep the same password forever. You may want to change it every three months. 
  • Don’t write your passwords down. Or if you do, keep it in the safest place possible. If you really are forgetful, you may opt to save passwords within a file in your computer but don’t put it in a file with password as a file name. You can’t get any more obvious than that. You may want to save it inside a long random document file.
  • If possible, use a combination of letters, numbers and special characters. This will help make your password stronger. If you’re having a hard time coming up with one, you may use strong random password generators online.
  • Don’t use your birthdate as your password. This can easily be obtained especially if you don’t follow Tip #1.

Tip #6: Remember to lock your gadgets when not in use.

You may opt to use a pin, a password, a pattern, or even biometrics. Remember that this is your first line of defense especially if you allow your gadgets to remember passwords to various websites--social media accounts, mailboxes, etc.

Tip #7: Be wary of phishing e-mails and websites.

For emails, be wary of unknown senders asking for personal information. Don’t immediately believe emails threatening to delete your account if you don’t update your information.  Scammers are really getting good at imitating legitimate websites. Make sure that if you’re asked to enter a password the URL of the website starts with https:// and not just http://.

Tip # 8. Be wary of public wi-fi access.

Avoid using these points to access important websites and applications such as bank applications. You never really know who is watching. If needed, use your mobile data instead.

* Pamela Lloren is a Certified Public Accountant who formerly taught accounting and finance subjects at the University of the Philippines. She is currently taking up her Ph.D. in Business Administration.

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