In today’s fast-paced, technological world, it’s easy to forget that we enjoy conveniences generations before us only dreamed about.
It’s also easy to forget that there are people out there who exploit this technology in order to get ahead financially.
In other words, they commit identity theft.
How can you guard yourself against identity theft in today’s digital world?
Although there are a variety of ways to stay safe online, below are a few tips that I share with clients and prospective clients on a regular basis regarding how to guard yourself against identity theft.
As you’ll see, security and convenience don’t always go hand-in-hand, but it beats the pants off spending lots of time and money restoring your identity after failing to follow one or more of the tips below!
Use a password manager
How can you guard yourself against identity theft online?
Let’s be honest, snuggles12 and golfnut823 are NOT secure passwords, especially when you’re using them for multiple online accounts.
Don’t believe me?
Check out this free tool and enter in either one. As you can see, it only takes 10 days or less to crack either one.
A good password manager will help you generate passwords like @U9TyLrOwJ!Lfe4% for each of your online accounts.
The password manager then securely stores these passwords and allows you to access them through an easy to use tool, such as a plugin/extension for your web browser and/or an app on your smartphone.
To give you an example, it would take a hacker, with today’s average desktop PC computing ability, approximately 12 TRILLION YEARS to crack the automatically generated password listed above.
I mean, you can keep using snuggles12 if you’d like, but when one of your accounts gets hacked, don’t say I didn’t warn you!
Enable two-factor authentication
Another way to beef up security for your online accounts is to enable something called “two-factor authentication” where possible.
In other words, rather than requiring only “one-factor” (e.g. your password) to login to your online accounts, two-factor authentication adds an additional step you have to take before accessing your accounts.
For example, you might receive a text message with a one-time numeric code that you enter after entering your username and password.
Or you might have to enter in an automatically generated string of numbers from an app like Google Authenticator.
Whatever method used, two-factor authentication typically increases your account’s security because if a hacker were able to crack your password, they’d also have to have the physical “token” or device with the code on it, such as your phone, in order to gain access to your account.
Button-up your social media accounts
Your online social media presence is something a lot of people don’t think about when asking the question, “How can you guard yourself against identity theft?”
Below are a just few tips to help guard yourself against identity theft when using social media…
- Avoid sharing personally identifiable information publicly
- Only “friend” people you actually know
- Don’t share details about your location
For example, information such as your full birth date or your anniversary date (i.e. month, day, year) can help fraudsters in numerous ways when trying to commit identity theft.
Control the privacy settings on your social media accounts so that the folks you share things with are actually your “friends,” not some random person you met on vacation 10 years ago.
Thieves can use this information in a variety of ways. Check out this article for just a few ways thieves can use this information to your detriment.
There are obviously many more ways you can beef up your privacy when using social media accounts, but hopefully this will at least get you started.
How can you guard yourself against identity theft offline?
In closing, with all of this talk about avoiding identity theft online, we might forget to ask, “How can you guard yourself against identity theft offline?”
Obviously, there are a lot of things to consider, but here’s one that many people still get wrong…
Don’t EVER mail your bills from your home mailbox.
When you stick that red flag up on the side of your mailbox, it’s a LITERAL red flag for fraudsters and thieves.
Refer to rule #1.
If you don’t already, consider paying your bills online (using a secure internet connection of course!).
In the rare instance you still have to pay a bill by mail, go ahead and stick it in one of the blue postal collection boxes, or drop it off directly at the post office.
It might take a little extra time, but I can assure you, restoring your identity after being a victim of identity theft is much worse!