Identity theft continues to be a major concern, especially for those who shop or do business online. In fact, identity theft hit a record high in 2017, with more than 16.7 million people affected, according to recently released statistics. As consumers have become savvier, and new security measures such as credit card chip technology are fighting back, identity theft thieves are shifting their focus online. By stealing passwords and personal information, they can open accounts, order products, access existing funds and create all sorts of havoc in a very short amount of time.

We’ve addressed email phishing scams and how to outsmart them, plus tips for keeping your family safe online, and are continuing in our effort to help you have the best experience online with even more tips here for avoiding the dangers of identity theft online.

Strengthen your passwords: It’s tempting to use the same password for a lot of your banking and shopping accounts, we know. But don’t do it! Passwords should contain a mixture of upper and lower case letters, as well as numbers and symbols for maximum security. The most important place to NOT re-use passwords is for any online banking or financial sites. Be sure to use unique ones for each site. If the thought of remembering all those different passwords gets overwhelming, we recommend looking into using a reputable password management service like LastPass to help you keep track of all your passwords and support your security online.

Be careful with public Wi-Fi: Next time you’re passing time on your laptop at Starbucks or McDonalds, remember that hackers can monitor your information if you are using a free and open system. Keep your activities to writing letters, scrolling through social media or answering emails, and save the shopping and banking for later when you are on a secure internet connection.

Protect your phone, too: Malware and hacking isn’t just on computers – it can happen on smart phones, too. Now that people are shopping and doing their banking more on their phones, they put you at risk too. Treat your mobile devices like your computer and secure them with passwords and security software as well.

Say “yes” to alerts: When your bank or credit card company asks if you would like an alert (such as a text or email) sent to you for charges that exceed a certain dollar amount – say yes! If you are hacked, the quicker you know and the quicker you react can save a lot of time, money and hassle.

Use two-factor authentication: Banks, credit card companies, retirement accounts, and other online financial sites have been offering two-factor identification (where you log in, then are sent a text or email with a verification code as a second layer of security) for a few years. Now, many online merchants are doing the same, but you must opt in. While it may seem like an extra step, it’s a great extra layer of security, and takes much less time than it will take if your identity and accounts are hacked.

Don’t save your credit card information on shopping sites: Even if you are a loyal customer and always shop on certain sites, if they are the victim of a hacker in the future, your information will be there for the taking. Always click the “no” box when asked if you want to store your credit card information.

The key to protecting yourself from identity theft both online and off is to always be on guard. Hackers are savvy, but you can be too. Stay vigilant. Follow the guidelines we’ve provided here, and above all, if you feel that a website is asking for too much information online, they probably are.