On Lock When Online: 5 Ways You Can Prevent Identity Theft

It can be said many men shall long think Ann-Margret is eternally sexy. It can be said many women shall long think Elvis is eternally sexy. It can be agreed from all perspectives articles on identity theft are decidedly unsexy. Like a bland stamp on a white envelope inside a filing cabinet – there’s just little about password security that’ll set hearts racing in daily life.

Woman looking at computer

‘Oh man, he’s going to talk about passwords? I’m going to go kayaking or something…’

Yet, here we are. Beyond reminisces of Hollywood starlets there’s aspects to identity theft that are ongoing, evolving – and dangerous. A decade or two ago eCommerce was from a statistical point of view non-existent, in 2016 it is now worth a projected 1.92 trillion USD. Suffice to say: that is a ton of businesses, supply chains,  and customers who all stand to be markedly disrupted were a identity theft ‘plague’ to occur.

Fortunately with encryption, two-step authentication, and other robust security measures in place such an occurrence isn’t likely. This notwithstanding,  there are among us friends who still use their dog’s name as a password. Not only does this make it easy for people they know to hack their account; but a simple name password is among the easiest to break.

Further, once someone has hacked one account they are often to set off a chain by trying out other resets (just like how your email can reset a social media account when you forget a password). This can snowball and soon you find out your email has been hacked, your social media has been hacked, and now you’ve RSVP’d to perform at a huge Battle of Bands – but you totally don’t have your ads ready for yet.

So, to prevent such surprises let’s look now at how to guard against identity theft online..

Use Good Passwords

You may have meant it when you made ‘Jamie4Eva’ as your Facebook password in high school but just as that relationship has since gone to history’s page so too must your hackable password. Though websites can differ with what they allow in your passwords exactly – some shall prohibit symbols like ‘$#%&’ whereas others shall not permit numbers, or even words. Invariably though, a combination password is allowed – so rather than just losing letters, numbers or symbols – ideally look to use all 3.

Store your Passwords Carefully

You may be think your super stealthy writing all your passwords on a list inside the freezer door but it just takes one random vagabond guest at your next house party to go ahead and make your head sore in the morning (and not because you had that one drink too many). So, ensure you store your passwords in a secure place – and if you must do so offline – make sure they are either very well hidden, locked away, or both.

Change your Passwords Often

Unless you work for the CIA its reasonable to usually reasonable to think your password can stay the same for beyond a day or a week. Beyond a year though? That’s surely too long. Dependent on what your password is for (your banking likely has a greater level of need for security around it compared to your Pinterest account) changing at least every 3 months is good practice.

Keep an Eye on Transactions

It may not be obvious right away when your email or social media account has been hacked – you’ll just have to find out next week why you liked so many pottery groups on Facebook and undo the damage – but when it comes to finances a higher level of security can usually be arranged.

Pottery class

‘So get this, they RSVP’d but they don’t even LIKE pottery…’

There are ways to anticipate this though. Whether you’ve a web-mobile system setup on your bank (so you need SMS a code before doing an online transaction), or an email system setup that notifies you anytime a transaction occurs via PayPal (making it easy to spot a suspicious payment), setting up an extra layer in the process can both prevent identity theft, and let you know right away if it arises.

…but ‘Just Deal’ if it Happens

Just as you’ll sometimes have a bad day so too is avoiding identity theft altogether uneasy. If you take the precautions listed here, and are careful with you has access to your information, you can reasonably expect your online presence to be relatively secure.  On the other hand, there are many hackers and phishers in the world, and they are innovative and persistent.

So, while ‘prevention is better than the cure’ should remain a guiding star of your online life, at some juncture it’s likely you will encounter some form of identity theft. As it varies where this could happen knowing exactly what to do when it does may not be obvious; but contacting the customer support of the website where your account has been compromised is almost always a good starting point.

A Quiet word on a Open Internet

We are right now having big debates in the world about things like internet freedom. It is a big debate‚ complex‚ and perhaps best addressed in another article. Suffice to say though‚ things like personal security‚ right to free speech‚ and a right to liberty in your daily life (provided you are doing nothing wrong or illegal) is not only a principle of the open internet, but of human rights around the globe.

So‚ true‚ keeping your Tumblr password secure is not going to make all governments fair around the world or bring about world peace, but doing your little bit to ensure your own privacy, rights, and ‘online life’ operate without being attacked or undermined is important not just to your own life; but the future of a free internet. One where you can access information, participate in conversation, and operate a business without censorship or harassment.

An open internet is a wonderful achievement in a world where there do remain people and places intent to keep others in the dark. Accordingly, doing this little bit in your own life does help ensure all the good work many good people did before us in ‘the real world’ for our rights is continued and kept up as the online arena grows. And that’s great; because who doesn’t need free speech to ensure safekeeping of all 80’s synth pop.

Ed Kennedy is a journalist and web designer proudly from Melbourne, Australia. Say hi to Ed via enquiries@edkennedy.co or on Twitter @EdKennedy01

Ed Kennedy is a journalist and web designer proudly from Melbourne, Australia. Say hi to Ed via enquiries@edkennedy.co or on Twitter @Edkennedy01

#Tech and Online