Learn 12 easy-to-implement ways to protect yourself and others.
- [Instructor] Here are some of the things you can do to help avoid the nightmare of identity theft. One, change is healthy, especially when we're talking passwords. A growing consensus in the data security community is that passwords will be a thing of the past in the next decade or so, with new forms of authentication being developed and becoming mainstream. Until that joyous day, please change your passwords regularly, once a month minimum. Make them long and strong. Develop your own system, perhaps using a favorite phrase at the core, or use a password manager.
Use complex alphanumeric 10 plus digit passwords. Two, change your usernames. Too many sites still allow or require you to use your email address as your username. The problem with this is that the arguably most public piece of your personally identifiable information is by very definition not the most secure way to confirm to a site that you are the right person to gain access to your sensitive information.
By using your email address or name as your User ID, you're giving the bad guys 1/2 of the front door key. Consider using a complex username as part of your security protocol. Three, tighten your privacy settings. If you haven't revisited your social media privacy settings in a while, you may be surprised how much has changed. Did you realize you were sharing your love of Prince, profile pictures, and birthdate with anyone and everyone? You can change that and you definitely should.
Check and tighten at every opportunity your privacy settings on every site you use, such as Facebook or LinkedIn. Make sure only trusted contacts can see your posts. Keep your personal information safe. Protect your mail. Use extreme caution in sharing any personal information online and on phones. Don't provide checking account information online or over the phone. Keep your checkbook and checks in secure locations.
Protect your computer too. Update virus protection. Don't open files from unknown sources. Look for the lock icon, and https, before entering any personal information. Use a firewall and erase computer hard drives before disposing of computers, and destroy peripheral storage devices before disposal, even thumb drives. Four, purge your friends. On the social media site having a ton of friends is one indication that you might be an awesome individual, but for those who believe more is better, consider the possibility that someone you don't know might be looking at you as their day job.
Since most of us don't, or at lease shouldn't, invite strangers to stay in our homes, why would we friend them online? Five, tell a few lies. One way to throw a would be scammer off the trail of your personally identifiable information is to be less than truthful. Here's where you can truly benefit by making yourself seem younger, or using any of the many things that people lie about. You can change your birthday, your hometown, your major, or whatever else you want.
Six, check your bank and credit accounts daily. One way to stop, or at least contain fraud is to stay on top of things, and there is nothing easier these days than the chore of monitoring your financial accounts. Set up daily reports and transaction alerts with your bank and credit card accounts. This makes checking your accounts part of your morning routine, or whenever you choose to have the reports sent. You can also set up alerts that let you know about every transaction big or small, or only monitor transactions above a certain threshold, all of it sent to a smart device, or to your email, thus making it easy for you to know what's happening at a glance.
Other easy things you can do as part of your new normal routine are to promptly take action on reporting discrepancies. Never, ever carry your Social Security card unless absolutely necessary. Review the statements you receive and shred them at appropriate intervals. Shred all unsolicited offers. Opt out of offers. Close unused accounts. Carry only credit cards to be used and know what's in your wallet. Seven, these days there is nothing difficult about checking your credit.
Many credit card companies now provide free access to your FICO score, and doing so will let you know in short order if anyone has tried to tap into your available credit. You can get a free credit report summary every month on credit.com, and you can get your free annual credit reports at annualcreditreport.com. Eight, another option to help strengthen your identity defenses is the credit freeze. You can actually lock your credit, but don't forget that you will need to unlock it every time you want to open up a new line of credit, or for example, allow a current creditor to review your account for a limit increase.
There can be a charge for freezing and unfreezing your credit depending on your state's laws. Nine, stop using public Wi-Fi. Sure, it's convenient, but do you really need to pay your bills when using public Wi-Fi. You truly never know who is able to see the traffic on those networks. The solution here is simple. Conduct sensitive business on a secured network because unfortunately free access could end up being very expensive. 10, stop clicking the remember me box.
Let's say your computer is lost or stolen. Do you have a security code protecting the device? Is it a long and strong password? Can you erase or disable the device using a username and password entered from another device? Even so, there's a chance that whoever finds or takes your computer can gain access to what it contains, including the various ways into your financial affairs. Always type in all usernames and passwords for financial accounts.
Don't let your computer auto fill unless you're absolutely certain it's secure, and you use a good password manager. 11, turn off geotagging. Geotagging is the process of capturing GPS information and attaching it to information that you post such as when you upload pictures to Facebook when you are on vacation. People are often not aware that the photos they publish on the internet have been geotagged. Many celebrities reportedly gave away their home location without knowing it.
Closer to home, a significant number of for sale advertisements on Craig's List that were otherwise anonymous, contain geotags, which reveal the location of high value goods, sometimes in combination with clear hints as to the absence of the offerer at certain times. Publishing photos and other media tagged with exact geolocation on the internet allows random people to track an individual's location and correlate it with other information.
Therefore, criminals could find out when homes are empty because their inhabitants hosted geotagged and timestamped information both about their home address and their vacation residence. These dangers can be avoid by removing geotags with a metadata removal tool for photos before publishing them on the internet. Unfortunately, lots of people still leave location services enabled when using cameras, and it's still a good way to provide a north star for those people who are looking to figure out how to better identify you, or where they can find you or your valuables.
Thieves spend hours every day on social media looking for things to steal, and if you post pictures of your prized possessions online without disabling geotagging, you are handing a would be thief all the information he needs to show up at your door when you're not at home and rob you blind. 12, sharing is not necessarily caring. No one really needs to see pictures from your vacation in real time except of course the burglar looking to empty your home of its valuables, but that's not the only reason to avoid oversharing.
A study in Science Magazine found the anonymous information used for research was reidentifiable with specific people just using a few data points provided by those very people. If you guess that those data points came from social media, you're right. Every meal you post form a favorite restaurant or article of clothing from a must-have designer is potentially correlated with a credit card transaction, and from there it's just a matter of the time it takes a computer to find the transaction on a set of purchases that matches your Instagram post.
Identity theft and other identity-related crimes are no longer something you need to think about from time-to-time. There is no avoiding every scam and fraudster out there, but you can make yourself a harder target. Only through a paradigm shift in the way we view data security will things change. Please consider and put into practice some of these suggestions, and you can better avoid becoming a fraud statistic. What happens if you do become a victim of identity theft? What does it really mean? Let's explore those questions next.
Note: This course was recorded and produced by Mentor Source, Inc. We're pleased to host this training in our library.
- History of identity theft
- Twelve ways to protect your identity
- The real cost of identity theft
- Medical identity theft
- What should you do when your identity is stolen?
- What can organizations do?
- Simple password protection
- Does your password pass?
- Managing your passwords