Last year, 2012, marks the first year in which the FTC received more than two million complaints overall, and 369,132, or 18 percent, were related to identity theft—an increase of 30% over 2011. Of those, more than 43 percent related to tax- or wage-related fraud.

As the internet grows ever more pervasive and essential, we find ourselves conducting most of our business online. We use the internet to shop, pay bills and manage bank accounts. We will increasingly rely on the electronic exchange of personal information as the internet continues to evolve and become even more consumer friendly. Subsequently, criminals will also evolve, working day and night to find and exploit vulnerabilities within our networks. These hackers will not sleep until they gain access to all of our information, which they can utilize to steal our identities or gain access to our financial accounts.

Statistics show that one in four American adults has been notified by a business or organization that his or herinformation has been compromised due to a data breach. This means that you could be taking all the necessary precautions to keep your information safe, but by simply doing what every other person in the world does—sharing your Social Security number or credit card information with a trusted organization—you put yourself and your security at risk. So, how do you protect yourself?

  • Lock down your PC with antivirus, antispyware, antiphishing and a firewall.
  • Always keep your devices’ OS and critical security patches updated.
  • Consider getting a credit freeze and/or identity theft protection.
  • Shred—don’t just throw away—personal information.
  • Lock down your wireless network with WPA2 encryption.
  • Protect data on wireless devices, particularly when using a public WiFi network, with a free VPN such as Hotspot Shield.

By following these guidelines, you will keep your identity safer. You know who you are; don’t let anyone else think he can be you.

Robert Siciliano is an Identity Theft Expert to Hotspot Shield VPN. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen See him discussing internet and wireless security on Good Morning America. Disclosures.

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