May 23, 2024

When you use the Internet, it is essential to consider your digital footprint. A digital footprint is the information you leave behind when using the Internet. This footprint can consist of a lot of data related to your identity, such as the following:

  • Your IP address,
  • Device information,
  • Home address,
  • Shopping information,
  • Workplace,
  • Social media data.

What is a Digital Footprint

Your digital footprint is information obtained directly and indirectly. Directly obtained information includes anything provided on social media and other online forums. Indirect information involves data obtained through cookies or apps that collect your information in the background.

Thieves can use this information to steal your identity, a rising crime. Identity thieves can use your identity to obtain loans or credit cards, steal your tax refund, commit crimes, and more. Sometimes, they use stolen personal information for “swatting.” This crime involves reports of fake emergencies to garner responses from law enforcement, often involving a SWAT team.

Reducing Your Footprint

However, you can reduce your digital footprint to mitigate the chances of theft. Here are a few steps you can take:

  • Avoid Public Wi-Fi When Accessing Any Sensitive Information. Using public Wi-Fi invites more vulnerability to hacking and identity theft. As such, experts recommend avoiding public Wi-Fi when possible. Be sure your devices do not automatically connect to available networks so you can choose whether to connect. If you use public Wi-Fi, consider using a virtual private network (VPN) to help hide your online activity.
  • Update the Software on Your Devices. Many updates address security issues and can help keep your data safe.
  • Use Strong Passwords. Some experts suggest using passwords with a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. Others recommend creating a passphrase. Regardless, a password manager can keep all the passwords together, ensuring you never lose access to important accounts with strong passwords.
  • Be Careful About What You Post on Social Media. Do not post private information on social media. Thieves can piece together your identity based on posted information, such as your birthdate and other identifying information.
  • Check Your Credit Report. Identity theft can happen to anyone at any time. As such, running self-background checks can help reveal potential theft. For example, self-checks can reveal whether someone has used your identity to open new credit accounts or take out loans.

Consumers should run self-background checks if they suspect someone has stolen their identity. Contact law enforcement and financial institutions if someone has stolen your information. The government also recommends reporting identity theft on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) website. The FTC can work with you to create an individualized plan to help recover the stolen identity and its effects.

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