Technology continues to grow exponentially. Ten years ago we were all using flip phones and renting movies from Blockbuster (let that sink in). So many great things have come from the tech boom we have experienced. Smartphones, online banking, and social media are just a few things most of us can’t imagine going through life without them. Since so much of our personal information is online, a growth has also been experienced in theft, identity and otherwise. Here are a few ways to protect yourself from becoming victim to online theft.

1. Do your part- NEVER respond to requests for personal information such as social security number or account number. Financial institutions will not contact you to ask for your information. If someone from a credit union or government agency calls you and requests personal information it is more than likely an attempt to steal it.

2. Less is more- Address, date of birth, mother’s maiden name, and your pet turtle Leonardo’s name shouldn’t be shared on social media. Think about some of the passwords you currently use. If you are like the majority of the population at least one of your passwords include something from the list above.

3. Vegas baby!- In the spirit of not oversharing, make sure to avoid posting pictures or checking in while you are on vacation. You may as well put a sign on your house that reads, “Nobody is home. Take what you want.”

4. Passwords- Make your passwords hard to guess. Use a combination of letters, numbers, lower case/upper case, and special characters. B0omerS00ner@ is much better than hook em horns.

5. Lottery scams- If you did not play the lottery you could not have won. Do not respond to emails or phone calls claiming you have won some sort of lottery or sweepstakes. Most of the time they will ask you to deposit a check and wire back an administrative fee. The problem is the check is no good and you will be responsible for the money you wired.

6. Ditch the paper- Going paperless and receiving statements by email, receiving direct deposit, and paying bills online is not only faster, it protects you from mail theft.

7. Watch your accounts- Log in to online banking and review your transactions frequently. The easiest way to minimize a loss is to detect it early. You can also review your credit report for free annually at annualcreditreport.com. This site is used for identity theft prevention so you won’t get a score unless you pay for it, however you can review the line items and inquiries on your account to make sure they are all legitimate.

These steps should help minimize your risk of becoming a victim to online theft, however should you ever experience this make sure to notify your financial institution immediately. You may also freeze your credit report with the credit bureaus.