Protecting Your Identity
Identity theft is a multi-billion dollar criminal industry, and those who target consumers have become more technologically sophisticated and difficult to thwart. But there are simple steps you can take to protect your identity
, and from those who want to steal your credit card information or other confidential financial data. Here are three simple methods for protecting your identity and securing your personal information.
SEE ALSO: Top 3 Reasons You Need To Rethink Hacking [Infographic]
1. Change Your Passwords
Recent studies at tech-focused universities, such as Carnegie-Mellon in Pittsburgh, reveal that most consumer passwords are inadequate
. Research shows that the toughest passwords to hack are those that are 12 or 13 characters long and are comprised of both numbers and letters. If your passwords dont meet that standard, they should be updated.
Even if you do have strong passwords, passwords should be changed on a regular basis, at least once or twice per year
. Dont make the easy mistake of writing down your password, either, because the wrong person may read it.
2. Don't Use Your Smart Phone
Despite complex codes and PIN numbers, consumers often overlook the weakest link in their chain of protective strategies.
If you transmit sensitive data over an insecure network, for example, you are exposed to a high risk of identity theft. People may have great passwords, but then they make the terrible mistake of banking and shopping on cell phones that have little or no added protection.
While home and business computers may have good anti-virus programs, smart phones are relatively new inventions. There is currently no software on the market at this time that provides adequate protection for these kinds of portable devices. Thats especially true when you use them to surf the Internet. Experts warn against storing valuable data on a smart phone, iPad, or similar gadget that could be lost or hacked
. You should also resist the urge to conduct sensitive business, like bill paying, while using one of these less secure devices.
SEE ALSO: The Rise And Fall Of Anonabox: Developing Internet Anonymity Routers
3. Use Common Sense
There are also low-tech ways to steal a persons identity. If you throw out copies of bank statements or credit card bills, a thief can pull those out of the dumpster
. Sometimes, people speak their credit card number while shopping by phone in a public place, or while talking to a cashier. But bystanders may overhear the number and write it down for later use.
Use common sense and play it safe by following these basic tips:
- Never shop online at sites that dont offer encryption of financial data.
- Dont trust emails that ask for passwords or social security numbers, even if they appear to be from a legitimate source.
- Dont open email attachments from addresses you dont recognize, because they may contain file-stealing computer viruses.
- Review your credit report once a year and look for suspicious activity.
- Shred sensitive documents before you throw them away, and if you suspect identity theft, notify the authorities immediately.
By following these basic tips, you can make sure that you keep your identity for yourself, and away from criminals.