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How can I Protect my Personal Information Online?

Dana Hinders
Updated May 17, 2024
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The Internet has become an integral part of our daily lives, yet you may find yourself asking, “How can I protect my personal information online?” Whether you’re paying your bills or catching up on the news, passwords are one of the most important safeguards to protect your personal information on the Internet. For maximum security, choose passwords of at least six characters that contain both letters and numbers. Avoid passwords that could easily be guessed, such as your child’s name, your birthday, or your phone number. Don’t use the same password for more than one website and get in the habit of changing your passwords every two to three months to protect your personal data online.

As you’re checking your e-mail, learn to recognize the signs of phishing scams. “Phishing” occurs when someone creates e-mail requesting your personal information that appears to be from a bank or some other type of well-known business. They will often ask you to verify your Social Security number or other important personal information online to prevent your account from being closed. If you click on the link in the message, it will take you to a “spoofed” or fake version of the reputable website. To protect your personal data online, always copy and paste web addresses into your browser window and call the company directly if you are asked to provide personal information via e-mail.

If you like to shop online, be cautious when doing business with unfamiliar retailers. Many unsuspecting shoppers have had their personal information stolen as the result of online shopping scams. Look for stores that have the Better Business Bureau Online seal of approval. Reputable businesses should also offer package tracking and insurance to make sure that your merchandise is delivered safely. Don’t give out any more information than what is truly necessary to complete your purchase; there’s no legitimate reason for a store to need your Social Security number or mother’s maiden name if you’re simply trying to buy a birthday present for your spouse. If you’re concerned about buying from a particular website, call the customer service department to ask how you can better protect your personal information online, with their website.

Blogs and personal websites provide new ways for thieves to steal your personal information online. Even seemingly innocent references to your friends, family, or place of employment can give criminals the details they need to steal your identity. For maximum security, refer to people by nicknames only and think twice about the content of any photos that you choose to post.

Of course, software developers are continually looking for new ways to help you protect your personal information online. Spam filters and phishing filters are being developed to help keep e-mail safe, while the newest version of Internet Explorer contains a number of improved security features. For this reason, it’s important to make sure you check your web browser and virus protection software for updates on a regular basis.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Dana Hinders
By Dana Hinders , Writer
With a B.A. in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Iowa, Dana Hinders brings a strong foundation to her work as a freelance writer. After discovering her passion for freelance writing following the birth of her son, Dana has been a vital part of the WiseGEEK team. She also showcases her versatility by creating sales copy and content for e-courses and blogs.

Discussion Comments

By amypollick — On Oct 31, 2011

@anon226359: The way these scammers get your cell phone is not because you've necessarily given it or posted it. They have dialing machines that go through numbers in sequence. For example: 555-0000; 555-0001; 555-0002; 555-0003, and so on. So, they're bound to hit on a legitimate cell phone number sooner or later.

But you're right: it's a scam and no one should pay any attention to this or to similar e-mails.

However, residents of the USA can report these texts and e-mails to the Federal Communications Commission online so a record can be started for these numbers. USA residents can also have their cell and home numbers put on a Do Not Call list so that, if a telemarketer does call, then they are in violation of federal US law.

But the way they get the numbers is usually through a sequential numbers dialing program. However, your cell phone company may also be able to block calls from a particular number, so it may be worth checking into.

By anon226359 — On Oct 31, 2011

I have a similar story:

The following is the message I got: "You have been awarded 500,000.GBP in the 2011 Shell intl mobile festival. To redeem, contact Dr. Williams, at" and a number.

What will Dr. William give for that? Even if it is so, what winners? This is really an attempt at robbery. Let's not respond to such crap. By the way, how is it possible that they get our cell numbers? Let's not give out our cell numbers in any case. If there is another attempt made, I think it is a different issue.

Whatever was said is not true. It is simply so they can get our bank account numbers so that they can easily rob them. The same thing has happened in other areas. The government and the concerned authorities are now urging the people to know about this scam. Now almost all are well educated about this blatant robbery. Selling our email addresses and stealing cell numbers and then exploiting them is all illegal. We have been told many times that we should not be responding to them. How is it possible that some people are willing to give such amount of money? Who can give such an amount for nothing when they themselves are in the state of bankruptcy? It is purely a robbery, is it not? Yes, that's for sure.

Let's be deaf to these irresponsible mobile messages. Say goodbye to such attempts of scams and robberies.

By subway11 — On Mar 25, 2011

@Bhutan - Wow that is scary. If I get an email like that I try to call the company to verify if they in fact sent it. If they tell me that they didn’t then I mark the email as a phishing scam. I also stay away from sites that don’t have an updated security certificate because they will not protect me while I am on their site.

I only order things online from secured sites that have an S after the http. This means that the site is safe and will protect my personal information protection. This is especially important during the holidays when there are a lot of online deals as well as thieves available. Focusing on these types of sites will protect your online personal information.

By Bhutan — On Mar 24, 2011

I wanted to say that it a friend of mine fell into a phishing scam. She received an email that looked authentic. It was an email form an online auction site that wanted her to update her account information which included her credit card number.

Since the email had the same logo as the real site she thought it was real. Luckily she was able to cancel her credit card when she realized that it was a scam. It is easy for some of these crooks to get access to your personal information data because they trick you into sharing personal information online.

Dana Hinders

Dana Hinders


With a B.A. in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Iowa, Dana Hinders brings a strong foundation to...
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