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. Making something like identity theft a sexy topic can be far more difficult. 

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, but in 2016 it is now worth a projected 1.92 trillion USD. That is a ton of businesses, supply chains,  and customers who all stand to be severlys disrupted were a identity theft ‘plague’ to occur.

Fortunately with encryption, two-step authentication, and other robust security measures in place such an event isn’t likely. This notwithstanding, there are among us people 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.

Once someone hacks 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 – news to you because you haven’t played a guitar since high school.

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. Just as that relationship has since gone to history so too must your hackable password. Websites can differ with what they allow in your passwords‚ some will prohibit symbols like ‘$#%&’ but others won’t allow numbers, or even letters. Usually a combination password is allowed‚ so rather than just using letters, numbers‚ or symbols‚ look to use all of them.

Store your Passwords Carefully

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

Change your Passwords Often

Unless you work for the CIA its reasonable to think your password can stay the same for beyond a day or two a week. Beyond a year though? That’s surely too long. Dependending on what your password is for (your banking one has a need for higher 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 find out next week why you liked so many pottery groups on Facebook – but when it comes to finances a enhanced level of security can usually be arranged.

Pottery class

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

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 can help 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 really bad day avoiding identity theft altogether is very hard. If you take the precautions listed here, and are careful with who has access to your information, you can expect your online presence to be relatively secure.  Yet, 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 time it’s likely you will encounter some form of identity theft. As it varies where this could happen knowing exactly what to do when the theft occurs may not be obvious. 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 complex debate‚ and 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.

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

An open internet is a wonderful achievement in a world where there do remain people and groups intent to keep others in the dark.

Accordingly, doing this little bit in your own life helps ensure all the good work many good people did before us in ‘the real world’ for our rights is kept up as the online arena grows. That’s really great for big and small reasons.  Because after all who doesn’t want free speech to ensure safekeeping of all 80’s synth pop?

Ed Kennedy is a journalist, ghostwriter, and web developer from Melbourne, Australia. Contact Ed via enquiries@edkennedy.co on LinkedIn or Twitter@EdKennedy01

#Tech and Online