With almost everyone in the country now using a computer, there are important precautions you need to take to ensure you stay cyber-safe.

According to the Norton Cybersecurity Insights Report, in 2014, 384 million identities were stolen worldwide when thieves hacked trusted institutions online. Statistics from the Australian Federal Police show that thousands of Australian devices are infected with the malware responsible for this identity theft and other malicious malware every day.

What do cybercriminals do with your identity?
With your personal details, cybercriminals can steal your money, but also apply for new bank accounts and credit cards in your name and rack up debts.

How do I know if my identity has been stolen?
Victims often see suspicious transactions in their accounts, receive unknown or unsolicited letters or bills in their names, or are rejected when applying for loans or other financial applications.

Can you recover your identity and money?
Often your identity can be very difficult to recover. You can report it to iDcare, Australia and New Zealand's National Identity Support Service, who assist consumers when they believe their personal information has been compromised or misused. You can fill out an online Support Request Form here for free and anonymous support.

Your bank can reimburse stolen money to you after an investigation finds you not at fault. But you can be proactive and reduce the threat to your family by following a few simple precautions.

Follow these tips to help protect your online identity

1. Don’t respond to unknown communications
Scammers frequently ‘phish’ for your information by sending you emails containing malicious attachments or links that often direct you to fraudulent websites. As a general rule, don’t respond to unknown emails, links, attachments or reply to unknown messages or calls. These same rules apply to mobile phones, tablets and laptops too, which cybercriminals are increasingly targeting.

2. Practise safe online banking
Avoid using Internet banking at unsecured wireless hotposts and in Internet cafes where your activities may be monitored. If you regularly use free wifi, install an app such as Norton WiFi Privacy on your mobile device, to protect your passwords and credit card numbers while surfing public hot-spots. If you need to make payments online for goods bought on websites, always ensure you use trusted online payment websites.

Shutterstock _335123117-online-shopping
When purchasing from an online store, make sure they use trusted and secure ways of payment

3. Monitor your bank accounts
Monitor your bank accounts for unauthorised transactions. Another good way to check if you have been a victim of financial fraud is to get a credit report to check on your credit rating.

4. Be careful what information you reveal on social media
Never share your birth date, phone numbers, where you live, your tax file number or any other financial information on social media, and set your security settings to high. ”People don’t know just how much information cybercriminals can gather. You may have removed your birth date from your Facebook profile but your contacts may still post happy birthday messages on your personal page that cybercriminals can then use to steal your identity,” says Nick Savvides, Security Strategist for Asia Pacific and Japan at Symantec, the makers of Norton security products.

5. Beware of sending personal details to online job or rental advertisements
Do some research into the company or organisation that you may be applying to before sending any personal information or documents electronically. Bogus employment and rental websites are often used to capture personal information. “The scammers can create websites that are almost exact replicas of companies,” cautions Savvides.

6. Only download from trusted websites and beware anything free
Steer clear of websites offering free games, music or software downloads. “About 80 per cent of those apps are actually legitimate apps that have been bundled with malware that people then download and install,” says Savvides.

7. Install a comprehensive security solution for firewall and anti-malware protection
Malware like trojans and viruses are commonly used to gain access to your computer and devices and steal personal information. Some malware allows keylogging where cybercriminals can see everything you type, even your passwords.

A comprehensive protection against different kinds of malware for both your computer and mobile devices is Norton Security Premium. This software includes firewall protection that monitors incoming and outgoing traffic for any malicious malware. It also includes antispyware protection that monitors your computer or device for anyone that might be spying on your files.

How do you keep your identity safe online? Let us know in the comments.

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