Steps You Should Take to Protect Your Online Information

Services for Real Estate Pros with Lisa M. Jackson and Associates, LLC

There’s no denying the fact that when doing business online - whether you’re a consumer, a business owner, or you’re simply searching online and utilizing tools like email - there’s a risk to your information and the technology you’re using. People like identity thieves and hackers can cause all sorts of trouble. This article identifies simple ways you can protect yourself – steps you should take to protect your online information.

1. Make sure your turn Firewall ON. And make sure you update it when renewal comes due or updates are available.

2. Likewise, install, update and use Anti-Virus software.

3. Consider using a website validation service or technology to make sure the websites you’re visiting aren’t corrupted or malicious.  

4. Don’t access important websites or accounts when using a public computer at internet cafés, libraries, and other public sites. You run the risk of your information being copied and re-entered after you leave.

5. Be aware that there are misleading and scammer websites designed to trick you and collect your personal information. It’s generally called phishing and it’s when someone sends you to a fake website made to look like a real financial institution or facility. Instead of clicking on a link from an email, simply type the business into your browser to make sure you’re using the real web address.

6. Create a system of changing your password on a regular basis.

7. Buy from well-known companies – and only provide bank or credit card information in secure sessions. Look for the https in your browser and look for the padlock in the lower right hand corner to signal it’s a secure session. You can also look for the VeriSign or other security certificate.

8. Don’t share your passwords with others and don’t write them down.

9. Avoid using the same password for all your accounts – if someone figures out one, they’ve got them all.

10. Try to create a unique, non-personal password that would be difficult to guess.

11. Be wary of files without file extensions, for example .doc or .jpg because it makes it easy for viruses to hide in them. And don’t open a file with a double extension because it probably contains a virus.

12. Don’t open emails from people you don’t know and don’t open attachments if you are suspicious or don’t know the sender. Attachments and emails can easily contain viruses and your computer and the information it contains can be at risk.

13. Don’t open an e-mail attachment that contains a file ending .exe, .pif, or .vbs as these are commonly used with viruses – unless you absolutely know who the file is from and trust them.

14. Review your ISP, Internet Service Provider, and see what protections they offer you as a customer. Do they offer virus protection services?  

15. Read your bank and credit card statements. Make sure all of the charges and transactions are legitimate. If not, call the institution immediately.

16. Review your bank and credit card statements for any unusual transactions or withdrawals and notify the bank immediately if you suspect any discrepancies. And take care where you use your credit card or bank card. Carry cash and if a place or person feels suspicious, don’t share your credit card or bank number with them – pay in cash.

17. Finally, back up your information with an online back-up service and/or with an external hard drive. How often should you back up? Some experts recommend daily back-ups, others weekly or monthly. It depends on how often you add new information and how valuable that information is to you. You should also back up your website, because a hacker can get in there in a blink and mess everything up. If you have your website backed up, repairing the damage is relatively painless.

In this age of technology we have wonderful tools and freedoms. However, with this technology also come risks: risks of identity theft, risks of theft in general, and hackers and viruses which can destroy computers and years of hard work. You can mitigate these risks by taking a few simple, but savvy, steps to protect your online information.

Comments (6)

Total Mortgage Services
Total Mortgage Services - Milford, CT

These are pretty helpful tips to protect yourself from identity thieves and hackers


Jul 20, 2010 07:53 AM
Kymberly Caldwell-Muniz
(909) 973-0410 - Fontana, CA
TCR Group Keller Williams Realty Rancho Cucamonga

Hi Lisa, great information especially backing up your information. I learned that one the hard way. Thanks for sharing.

Jul 20, 2010 07:59 AM
Jean Hanley
Coldwell Banker Kivett Teeters - Hemet, CA
Specializing in Folks Who Want To Buy/Sell Homes

Great tips Lisa.  Another one to add to your list (unless it's there and I missed it) I was told that when you are banking online, as soon as you sign off with your bank, you should get completely out of the internet, and then log back in, so that these nasty hackers cannot hit the go back arrow and get in your banking.

Jul 20, 2010 08:02 AM
Lisa M. Jackson
Lisa M. Jackson and Associates, LLC - Fredericksburg, VA
Affordable Solutions for Today's Agents


I honestly did not know this. Thank you. I hope everyone is reading all the comments!


Jul 20, 2010 08:40 AM
John Thomas
E3 Green HOMES - Boulder, CO
EcoBroker, MSEE, MBA

Very good list of tips...thanks. In today's world you can't be too safe when it comes to managing online information.

Jul 20, 2010 08:43 AM
Lisa M. Jackson
Lisa M. Jackson and Associates, LLC - Fredericksburg, VA
Affordable Solutions for Today's Agents

I actually had a very stressful occurance with PayPal a few weeks ago while I was out of town. I checked my emails and it showed that I had a few sales or rather deposits on this day. I was thinking okay great. I then noticed that I had debits as well. Well, something had happened where a lot of accounts were hacked into. Money was moved from accounts to other accounts and then transferred to the criminals fake account.

I would like to say that PayPal worked very quickly and had everything fixed within 48 hours.

Jul 21, 2010 04:06 AM