“Here we are chilling at the airport, heading to Ibiza for seven amazing days!”
How many times have you seen self-aggrandizing posts such as this (accompanied by a photo of the entire family) on a social media site? It’s truly remarkable how many people are smart enough to gather the wherewithal to afford a dream vacation, but foolish enough to tell the world their home will be empty for a week.
Similarly, protecting your identity online is just a matter of common sense. Don’t give anyone an opportunity to learn things you’d rather they didn’t know. It really is that simple.
Consider the following:
Far too many people use the same password for everything. It’s equally amazing how many people think they can use their birthdate and be safe. That’s one of the first things hackers try (forward and backward.) Ditto pet names, children’s names and the like. Basically, if it directly relates to your personal life in any way, it’s crack-able.
Choosing things you can remember at random, and then abbreviating them in some way is a good tactic. And yes, we know you probably have like 90 different accounts, all of which require password protection — the best play here is to avail yourself of a password manager to create and store them.
Public Wi-Fi Is Not Private
Sure, it’s useful for reading an article or watching a movie while you’re waiting at the DMV, but if you decide to take care of that last bit of banking, you’ll be exposing your financial information to everyone else on that network.
All they have to do is monitor the traffic on it and cherry pick the most promising data. If you must deal with information such as this in the open, use a secured personal hotspot or a virtual private network (VPN).
Keep the Security in Your SSN
With access to your name, address and Social Security number, identity thieves can have the party of a lifetime on your dime. Be suspicious of anyone requesting that information. Do everything possible to know exactly with whom you’re communicating before sharing it.
If you get a request for it, ask why the data is needed, how it will be employed, what protections they have in place for it and if they can use an alternative means of identifying you. Refuse to divulge that information about yourself or your family members to anyone who contacts you at random — or asks you to contact them.
Monitor Your Credit Report
You’re entitled to a free copy of your credit report each year. Pay particular attention to the section for open accounts. If you see anything you don’t recognize, move toward killing it right away. If accounts have been opened and your finances have been compromised, do everything possible to contact your lenders to let them know what has happened.
In most cases, you can get things stopped if they haven’t gone too far. If they have already gone too far and you’re on the hook for a significant sum, contacting a firm like Freedom Debt Relief to help you settle those debts can be a good play.
Keep Your Devices on Lockdown
Think for a moment about all of the personal information you have in your phone. Now, imagine what someone could do to your life if they had unfettered access to it, combined with malicious intent.
Yeah — scary, isn’t it?
Set your mobile devices and laptops to require two-factor identification.
Auto-logins should be defeated, and sleep timers should be as short as possible. Fingerprint and facial recognition authentication should be employed whenever available. Employ anti-virus and anti-spyware software as well as a firewall on your laptop. Ditto your desktop machines. All data sent into the blind should be encrypted.
These five actions are a good start toward protecting your identity online. For a more comprehensive list, the Federal Trade Commission offers some of the most effective recommendations we’ve seen.