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How to reduce, or even erase, your digital footprint

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Alex Thomas Sadler, Clark.com

There’s a new victim of identity fraud every two seconds, according to a study by Javelin Strategy & Research.

And of course the massive Equifax data breach continues to be a concern for Americans on a daily basis — and will be for a long time — after criminals got their hands on the most sensitive and personal information belonging to roughly 150 million people.

Take a step back to think about it: Almost everything you do on a daily basis — from swiping a debit card to simply using a smartphone — can cause your information to be exposed to criminals, making you vulnerable to all kinds of dangerous scams, including identity theft.

RELATED: How to see everything Google knows about you

Increasing risk of identity theft, fraud

The digitally connected world we live in today has made it easier than ever for crooks to not only find your information, but also convince you to hand it over to them — whether by pretending to be someone you trust or threatening you with some type of malicious activity.

With the rise of data breaches and increasing number of new scams being carried out via text, email, phone calls, social media — you name it — it’s critical that you take steps to protect yourself, your money and your identity.

RELATED: 13 ways you may be exposing yourself to fraud

The dangers of sharing personal info on social media

So many Americans are sharing a shocking amount of personal data on social media without giving a second thought to how they might be inviting cyber criminals into their lives. Here’s what a Visa survey found:

  • Almost half of respondents disclose their birthday on social media.
  • 29% share their phone number.
  • 20% list their home address.
  • 14% list their mother’s maiden name.
  • 7% post their Social Security number on social media!

If you’re doing any of these things, take the info down right now! Any single piece of this info could help a crook steal your identity and wreak financial havoc in your life.

In addition to the threat of hackers, removing certain information from social media and other sites is crucial if you don’t want potential employers or other people getting access to all the details of your personal life!

And of course social media isn’t the only threat—- in some cases, your personal info is just one Google search away.

How to reduce, or delete, your digital footprint

You may never be able to completely erase your digital footprint, since so much is already out there about pretty much everyone.

However, there are ways for you to reduce the amount of info out there about you, and in some cases, remove yourself from certain databases.

A few ways to get started:

  • Deactivate all of your social media accounts. Just go to your account settings and there will be an option to “deactivate” your account — either temporarily or permanently. A few examples:
    • Facebook
    • Twitter
    • Instagram
    • Pinterest
    • LinkedIn (unless you’re job searching)
  • Deactivate/delete old email accounts.
  • Search yourself online: There could be old accounts, profiles and other information out there that you forgot about.
  • Delete search results: You can request for search engines to remove any information you find about yourself that you don’t want out there.
  • For accounts you can’t delete, fill in the required fields will false information — nothing real about you!
  • Unsubscribe from all email lists and text message alerts.
    • This tool will show you everything you’re subscribed to so you can easily remove yourself from whatever you don’t want.
  • Delete old emails that may contain any personal or sensitive info about you (like passwords or account numbers you forgot etc.)
  • Ask your phone company to make you “unlisted” so your info isn’t available online.

Take these steps to protect yourself online

Here are a few resources to help you protect yourself online:

See all the latest scams here.

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