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Posted on June 27, 2014 by in Identity & Privacy, Personal

As my life has gotten busier, I’ve become more of an online than an in-store shopper. And while I’m not quite to the point of a totally “paperless” lifestyle, I do try to do most of my banking and bill paying online. It’s a huge timesaver and I love that I don’t have so much mail to sort and open these days! That’s the beauty of the Internet; having everything you need and want at your fingertips, 24/7. But there is a downside to all this convenience. The more time I spend online, the more of my personal information I’m sharing with companies, banks, and more. And, the more I put out there, the more vulnerable I may be to identity theft. Cybercriminals work day and night trolling for this personal information, wreaking havoc on people’s lives and finances. I try to do everything I can to protect myself from the bad guys; one really good way to stay safe is to make my presence online less visible. Here are some tips for staying private online:

Keep Your Web Searches Private

Web proxies facilitate access to content on the World Wide Web, but provide a layer of anonymity that keep your online activities more private. The most widely known is DuckDuckGo, a search engine that focuses specifically on maintaining your privacy during web searches. Unlike Google or Bing, who want to sell, sell, sell, to you, DuckDuckGo doesn’t collect or share your personal information to sell to advertisers or security agencies. DuckDuckGo doesn’t store your previous searches either, so the next time you search your results won’t be filtered according to what advertisers want you to see. Google offers private searching via “incognito” mode, which means the webpages that you open and files that you download while you are incognito aren’t recorded in your browsing and download histories. It also deletes all new cookies after you close the incognito windows that you’ve opened. Other search engines offering privacy include ixquick, vtunnel, and blekko.

Need More? Add-on With Cocoon or Disconnect

If private browsers don’t feel secure enough, try Cocoon. This program is an add-on for the web browser, Firefox––it’s available as a browser app on iPads and iPhones. Cocoon says it makes everything you do online secure, virus-free, and private. Cocoon prevents hackers from accessing your computer to leave cookies (files that websites save on your computer so if you visit the site again it will “remember” you) or infect it with viruses or malware. It can also add protection when you need to connect to the Internet through open Wi-Fi access points.

Disconnect is another add-on for Firefox, Chrome, IE, and Safari that works by blocking third party tracking cookies and tracking by social sites like Facebook, Google, and Twitter. It also protects you from “sidejacking”, where an attacker can use stolen cookies to access your personal data without having to know your password.

Don’t Leave a Trail of Breadcrumbs

A common online marketing technique is to collect location data from each visitor to the site, then allow local companies to geo-target and advertise to those accessing the website from specific locations. For many customers, this feels like a serious violation of privacy. If you have an iPhone, it probably came from the factory with location tracking enabled, and you probably didn’t even know! This can be disabled in your settings. You might also notice that when you use an app on your smartphone it might ask you to share your location. You can say no. Since the world of social media moves at lightning speed, Facebook and others tend to change the rules about privacy settings frequently. Make it a habit to check your settings regularly as updates might override your current privacy and security settings. Social sites also keep you constantly “signed in,” in part so they can see what other websites you visit. Make it a habit to log in and out regularly.

Use an Alias

Remember the action-packed TV show, Alias? Well, you can learn a thing or two from our heroine, Sidney Bristow, CIA agent, and accomplished kicker of butts. Sidney disguised her identity as often as I brush my teeth! Typically, to set up an online account, you have to share your personal information. When shopping online, it’s tough to use an alias, but when setting up an email address or social networking site, you can use an alias. Some credit card companies are now offering alternatives to paying online, such as generating a unique one-time use credit card number with a low specified limit. These numbers expire within a few weeks or less and keep you safer from prying eyes.

Try Privacy Protection Software

Other apps and services like Burn Note, Tor, and HotspotShield VPN can also help you stay anonymous online and keep your personal information out of the wrong hands.

Protect What Matters Most

Using these simple tools can help protect your identity and ensure that private information stays private whenever you’re spending time online. By enrolling in IdentityForce’s UltraSecure+Credit, your personal information, including your credit, will be monitored 24/7, and you’ll be notified immediately of any suspicious activity so you can act before any damage is done. If anything does happen, IdentityForce will be with you every step of the way helping you restore your identity.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Sebastien Wiertz.