Despite the spammers, scammers and hackers trying to get your data, there are some things you can do to give yourself some protection. Here are a few tips to help protect your personal data:
Clean up your digital footprint
The best way to start afresh and ensure only people you trust have your contact details is to clean up your digital footprint. With Rightly Protect, you can send deletion requests to multiple companies at once telling them to delete your contact details and personal data. According to EU and UK law, unless keeping this information is vital, businesses must delete it within a month of receiving your request.
By deleting your data with companies that don’t need it, you reduce your risk of spam. It makes it harder for hackers to get hold of your details by reducing the volume of information about you online which makes it much harder for companies and scammers to know how to contact you.
Use multiple email addresses
Create a second email account that you use just when shopping online or registering for online services. That way, only an essential few companies have your primary email address and you minimise your chances of being hacked, involved in a data breach or being the victim of identity theft. Plus, all those scam emails you receive will go straight into your second inbox. You could even set up a third email address dedicated to what you know will be spam, such as to sign up for freebies. That way you reduce your risk of being impacted by a data breach and of scammers getting your real email address.
Use an Alias email
Apple allows you to use an alias email so websites don’t get to see your real email address.
Choose a good email service provider
A good email service will filter most spam at first glance. It's easy for big email servers to spot spam if they can see that bulk mail is being sent to lots of its users. Gmail is one of the best for this, along with iCloud and Microsoft.
Block spam emails and numbers
You can block certain contacts that have been spamming you with messages. While most modern scammers use new emails and phone numbers to contact you each time, if you are receiving a bulk of unwanted messages from the same contact, blocking is the way to go. In many email apps you can set rules to automatically delete messages that meet criteria you set.
Don’t click on links or respond to spam
If you ever respond to a spam text, your phone number will likely be tagged as valid and can be disseminated to other scammers, increasing your odds of getting more junk messages. For example, even though legitimate businesses can send texts that end with ‘Text STOP to OptOut’, many scammers also do this to confirm your number is valid. So, unless you are sure the text is from a legitimate business it’s best not to respond at all. For emails, this includes clicking the ‘unsubscribe’ link, which actually informs your spammer that you exist. Clicking on a link or attachment in a spam message could also trigger malware that infects your device.
Mark and report emails and texts as spam
Rather than deleting spam you should mark it as spam. This will help reduce how much of this arrives in your inbox because most email apps will filter out spam and junk mail automatically. So, if you find a spam email in your regular inbox, mark it as spam which will move it to the spam folder. If you receive any more emails from this address, the spam filter will know to mark it as spam and it can help the service provider algorithm better adapt and identify spam. For texts, you can report spam messages to your mobile provider by forwarding the original message to 7726 (which spells out SPAM).
Avoid the ‘third parties’ box
When you sign up to a website there is often a tick box about sharing your data. Avoid ticking this. Sharing with third parties is vague and most often simply allows companies to share your data with unidentified others and make a profit from your personal information. And you won’t know where it ends up.
You can opt out of marketing communications with any company you don’t want to hear from. Plus, remove yourself from as many databases as possible that store your contact details and personal information. For example, The Direct Marketing Association, the Telephone Preference Service, and the Mail Preference Services all allow you to opt out of communications and to remove yourself from their marketing databases.
Use different passwords
Never use the same password for different sites. Consider a password vault where you remember one password and then have all your passwords in that vault. All the passwords you then use can be highly secure and unique so if a website is breached only that password will be compromised.
Use + after your name
On emails if you add + before the @ sign you can “tag” the website to find out who has shared your data so firstname.lastname@example.org becomes email@example.com, now if your data is shared and added to another email list or to a spam list or even a fraud attempt, you will know who shared it.
Misspell your name on purpose
Misspell your name or use capitals when sharing data with sites you are concerned about. This way, if your data is shared with scammers, it’s significantly harder for them to steal your identity. Plus, future scam emails that you receive could be highlighted by the wrong spelling.
When you visit a website for the first time you will be asked to accept cookies. In essence, cookies act as trackers, storing and sharing snippets of information about you. While some of these are necessary, like ‘functional’ cookies that store your login details and help websites improve, many share personal information about you. This includes the websites you visit, what you buy, and what characteristics you likely have. Always choose the minimum cookies option to reduce the data being captured on you. Most sites give you an option to select which non-essential cookies you will accept, or not.
Consider your browser
There are a whole range of internet browsers to choose from, many of which are built for privacy. DuckDuckGo for example has best-in-class privacy essentials for free. There are also a whole range of new technologies coming out that are designed to help you know if a website can be trusted. One of these is Browser, a community-led app that uses several databases of fraudulent websites to advise you. Apple’s Safari browser has built in tracker suppression preventing trackers from viewing your IP address or following you across websites. Also, Safari can generate a privacy report that reveals how many trackers it has prevented and what percentage of websites you visited contacted trackers.
Regularly check if you’ve been hacked
Make a habit of checking if any of your information has been breached. You can do this for free at haveibeenpwned.com, which checks your email against databases on the dark web. You can then change key information and passwords to prevent being hacked or scammed.
Delete or deactivate old service accounts
Check for any old accounts or profiles that you've created online. They could be old social accounts that you no longer use, or with retailers, travel companies and so on. Your data is probably still out there and it might include emails, home address and even payment card details. If someone hacks the company holding the data, or if someone unscrupulous sells your data, it can end up in the hands of criminals. To get rid of this data, go to your account settings and look for an option to either deactivate, remove, or close your account. Or, to tackle it all in one go, use the Rightly Protect service to find who has your data and get it erased.
Manage your Google settings
Take control of your Google search results. It’s time to decide how easily you would like people to find your information. If you want to remain private, then ensure that your security and privacy settings are up to date.
Remove yourself from data collection sites
Data brokers collect data from everything you do online and then sell that data to interested parties, so they can advertise to you and sell you stuff. To tackle this Rightly has a simple and FREE tool. It enables you to ask data brokers what information they hold on you and then helps you delete that information - click here to go to the tool. Using it can help reduce the risk of data harm and exposure to scams, fraud, data breaches and spear-phishing.
Use Google Search
You can use Google search to find out where your data is being used and stay one step ahead. Here are a few tips you can use in Google Search to help you:
- Search: [Firstname.surname@] and you’ll see if you can find email addresses attached to you
- Look for: [Firstname.surname:doc] to see if you can find any Word documents that contain your name. You could also swap out the file extension with other popular file types such as jpg, xls, pdf, etc.
- If you search [:FirstName.surname] you’ll see results showing your name anywhere in the text
Check to see if your data has been compromised
A Google search isn’t going to tell if your usernames and passwords have been hacked. Make a habit of checking if any of your information has been breached. You can do this for free at haveibeenpwned.com, which checks your email against databases on the dark web. You can then change key information and passwords to prevent being hacked or scammed.
When you move home…
Remember to change your address with all the organisations you need to. You can also set up a redirect with Royal Mail to make sure you continue to get important post from anyone you initially forget to change.
By alerting companies of new mailing addresses and reporting outdated information, you’ll avoid:
- Missing important post
- Accidentally ordering items to an old address
- Being vulnerable to identity theft.
There are online services to help you change address with the plethora of companies you need to notify, such as Slothmove. SlothMove enables users to update their address across multiple accounts, set-up a new home and let old providers know.
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