By Jim Blue, President of Blue International Ltd.
2015 was a challenging year on many fronts, not the least of which was the concern around Identity Theft.
Over 100 million Americans have their personal information placed at risk of identity theft every year. Every day there is a new report of a security breach hitting a retailer, credit card provider, and even the government. Yesterday, Time Warner Cable reported that was it was recently notified by the FBI that “some of our customers’ email addresses, including account passwords, may have been compromised.“.
The most common cause of identity theft occurs when someone obtains personal information such as names, addresses, phone numbers, e-mail addresses, birth dates, social security numbers, drivers’ licenses, and credit cards.
While it is impossible to avoid being the victim of Identity Theft, there are a number of steps that can be taken to minimize the risk.
– Do not use the same password for e-mail, social networks (Facebook), online banking, retail sites (Amazon), online backups, etc.
– Do not use easy to guess passwords such as birth dates, spouses and childrens’ names.
– Change your passwords every few months.
– Use a strong and unique password for each frequented online website. A password made up of a phrase such as “IDon’tLikePasswords$$$” combines capital letters, small letters and symbols and is easy to remember. Personalize for a particular site by taking a few letters from the site and adding it to the password. An Amazon password would be “IDon’tLikePasswords$$$Ama.” Your email password would be “IDon’tLikePasswords$$$email.
Credit and Debit Cards
– Use credit cards when possible. At least you can challenge a charge if your credit card account is hacked. If you use your debit card, funds are transferred immediately and it can be difficult to get your money back.
– Delete saved credit card numbers. To safeguard against data breaches, remove credit card numbers on file with retailers and enter them with each purchase. We have read about data breaches from major retailer data banks.
Social Security Numbers and Birth Dates
– Make birth dates (year) private on Facebook. Hackers glean personal information, such as age and location, from social media accounts in an effort to piece together social security numbers. By keeping birth dates private and opting to mail birthday wishes, identity thieves have one less resource.
– Avoid including social security numbers online (emails, text messages, filling out forms). Social security numbers are the major source for hackers. When asked for identification, offer other means of proof.
Virus and Malware Protection
– Remove old anti-virus and anti-malware software and install updated versions. Keep devices safe and secure with the latest software and security patches as soon as they are available. Keystroke logging malware can invade devices with weak security and capture credit card information.
– Do not access any sites requiring passwords from unsecured wi-fi locations such as hotels, airports, coffee shops, parks, etc. An unsecured wi-fi network is one that does not require a network code.
These are just a few ways you can minimize your risk of identity theft. Several months ago interviewed Steve Weisman, one of the country’s leading experts on scams and identity theft, on my BlogTalkRadio program. The first interview featured a discussion on Why You Should Be Concerned About Identity Theft, and the second, What You Need to Do If You Are A Victim of Identity Theft Each of the programs is about 15 minutes long. Both interviews were among my most listened to shows of the year.
If you missed them, click on the links below to listen to the interviews.
There seems to be a report of a new data breach or threat almost daily. Check the article about Time Warner above. Be diligent!!
If after listening to the interviews, you want to discuss any of the points covered, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Jim Blue, President of Blue International Ltd.