In our last post, we launched a series of best practices you can employ to protect yourself against identity theft and the financial damage done by it. We started with some ideas on how to secure your printed paperwork. Today, let’s go online to where, let’s face it, much of the most motivated mischief has moved.
There are two main strategies we’ll cover in this and our next post. Today, we’ll explore ways to be on the offense when thwarting attacks on your personal identity. After that, we’ll look at how to build a strong defense by being careful where you click out there.
Just as the best home security system money can buy won’t help if you’ve left it disarmed, your first line of protection is only as strong as the password protection you’ve established to foil electronic “break-ins.” You may not be able to overcome every threat, but don’t make it easy for them by omitting a secure set-up.
For starters, no online device you own should be without a password. This includes your computers as well as your mobile phones and WiFi routers. Increasingly, when possible, your “Internet of Things” should be secured as well – those printers, televisions, refrigerators and such that are increasingly talking to a centralized mother ship. Passwords only protect you if you use them.
Beyond your devices, no online login should be left insecure either. The more sensitive the stash – such as financial, credit card and online shopping accounts – the more essential it is to practice good password protection. Convenience is nice, but strong security is nicer.
Not just any old password will do, either. In fact, a strong password really shouldn’t be a word at all. Some of the basics here: Think nonsensical, mixed-case combinations of eight or more letters, numbers and special characters. | Change your passwords regularly. | Don’t use the same password for multiple accounts. | DON’T WRITE THEM DOWN ANYWHERE. | Last but not least, use password management software so you don’t go nuts trying to remember all of this. Good passwords are as essential as good locks for protecting your most valuable possessions.
In our last post, we mentioned how important it is to keep your personal information … well, personal. The more informational “crumbs” criminals can pick up on you, the more likely they will figure out a way to put them together and rip you off. Remember that when you’re sharing the latest about your life out in social media land. A rule of thumb: Your real friends and family already know your birthday, your vacation plans and your kids’ names. Be aware of how and with whom your social media information is being shared.
Just as criminals won’t hesitate to “dumpster dive” into your physical trash, they’re also on the look-out for your online throwaways. If you’ve got accounts you’re no longer using, close them out. Also be careful about disposing equipment. You may think you’ve wiped clean your obsolete computer or old mobile phone, but you’d be amazed what a clever thief can retrieve from an abandoned device. Even old printers and fax machines can be treasure troves of stored data. When disposing of old equipment, consult a professional on current practices for truly trashing it.
There’s no reason you have to go it alone on your security. Financial professionals (like yours truly), online merchants, social media vendors, government agencies, and many other reputable resources have a lot of vested interest in helping you protect yourself from identity theft. Use the security measures available to you! For example, use two-step verification whenever it’s offered. | Sign up for account alerts (such as transaction notifications from your bank), and don’t ignore them if you receive one. | Take advantage of available social media security protections to limit who can see your posts and personal information. We’re all in this together. Keep reading this series – and call us if we can answer any questions.
Next up, we’ll cover an array of “click tricks” you can use to defend yourself against malicious attacks when you’re out and about online.