We all know that we have to be more watchful of the email scams that ask for our personal information or even the people that watch us put our PIN’s in at the ATM. Commercials remind us every day to be more diligent and order credit reports to check for accuracy. Websites we frequent even ask us to update our passwords to include upper / lower case, numbers and symbols. Here are some other useful hints to consider:
* Quit using common passwords – 123456, password, qwerty, qwertyuiop, 18atcskd2w, 1q2w3e4r (if you’re like me, you had to type out the last four to realize why they are so common). Also, never use the name of your spouse and kids.
* Create login passwords for your home computer and cell phones. Many don’t do this since they aren’t hiding information from family, but what happens when your home is broken into or you accidentally leave your phone in a restaurant?
* Get creative with your passwords – @ for a – ! for I – 3 for e – $ for s – 0 for o – + for t Example – d!3+c0k3 (dietcoke).
* If you are going to store your passwords on your computer, make sure they are in a hard-to-find and not-so-obvious folder (recipes or bird watching, anyone?). Then, password protect or encrypt this folder.
* Do not “check in” via social media to let everyone know how slow or how incredible your bank is. You have now told your sister-in-law’s cousin’s husband who friend-requested you three weeks ago where you bank. Since he knows your date of birth, where you are from and your mother’s maiden name, thanks to social media, he may just find a way to access your bank account.
* Look on your social media accounts and verify what everyone can see. Is your account open to strangers with all your private information visible?
* A cop friend told me a few years ago to turn the location services off on my photos. If you post a photo from home on social media, someone may be able to figure out exactly where you live.
* Keep valuable documents in a fire proof safe – birth certificate, social security card, passport, credit card… FYI – an aunt gave one to my son for Christmas and I thought how brilliant that was!
* If you are selling your computer, restore it to factory settings. I once accidentally deleted a file of pictures from my computer; I went online and purchased a program and it retrieved most of them, which was great! But, if I can do that, imagine what a tech-savvy hacker can do. Instructions on restoring can be found in the manual.
Sometimes, no matter how careful you are, your identity can still be stolen. Check with your insurance agent to see if you have the Identity Theft endorsement on your policy. It is relatively inexpensive, approximately $25 for $10,000 worth of coverage, and can help with the frustration of putting your financials back together.
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