In Part 1 of our blog series on identity theft, our IT Guru, Dan Fadayomi of Anywhere Computer Repair, shared a shocking story about how a client of his recently had her identity stolen. The brazen thieves have yet to be caught.
Following is Part 2 of the series, in which Dan offers 7 simple steps you can take to prevent identity theft online.
7 Simple Steps to Protect Your Identity Online
By Dan Fadayomi
STEP 1: ENABLE 2-STEP AUTHENTICATION. If you use a free email address (Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo, etc.), enable 2-step authentication/verification on your account. This enables the email provider to send your cell phone a text message with a special code each time you (or someone else) tries to access your email account from a new computer. Without entering the code from the text message, access will not be granted to your email. It might seem like a hassle, but it’s a great first defense for email hackers.
STEP 2: CREATE A PIN ON YOUR CELL PHONE ACCOUNT. Call your cell carrier and make sure there is a security PIN on your account, preferably one you don’t need to record on your PC or anywhere else. Your PIN can be numbers, or the answer to a question only you would know by heart – e.g. In what city was your oldest niece born?
STEP 3: KNOW YOUR SECURITY ANSWERS BY HEART. Make sure the security answers within your free email account are accurate, and not recorded on your computer anywhere. As noted above, they’re usually things you should know by heart.
Note: It usually takes a while (I’ve seen it take months) to recover a free email account, since the email providers do not offer phone support, and rely on the security answers you provided and your cell phone number to confirm you’re the real owner of the account.
STEP 4: IF YOU GET AN UNEXPECTED CALL FROM A BANK/CREDIT CARD COMPANY, HANG UP. Cyber-crooks depend heavily on social engineering. They need to trick you into helping them. (Social engineering, in the context of information security, refers to psychological manipulation of people into performing actions or divulging confidential information.) So if you get a call or email that you’re not expecting regarding bank accounts or credit cards, hang up and call the financial company directly using phone numbers they have provided you in the past.
STEP 5: USE ONLY ONE CREDIT CARD FOR INTERNET PURCHASES & PAYMENTS. This is the easiest way to monitor your accounts while lowering the risk that all of your financial data will be exposed on the Internet. Some credit card companies and banks now offer temporary credit card numbers that expire every 30 days or so. If yours does, use that instead.
For those who use debit cards, consider opening an account with no overdraft protection/capability. Move money to it when you need to make purchases, and only use the debit card associated with that account for online purchases.
STEP 6: INSTALL ANTIVIRUS SOFTWARE. Make sure you have antivirus software on your PC/Mac. (Yes, Mac users DO get viruses.) It’s a no brainer. Don’t be a victim.
STEP 7: BE AWARE OF THE WEB ADDRESS BAR IN THE BROWSER. If you’re logging into a bank account or credit card site, your browser’s (Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Firefox, Safari, etc.) address bar should show an address that reads something like – https://www.bankofamerica.com/………… . If it doesn’t look quite right, it probably isn’t.
As you can see, these aren’t earth-shattering revelations. They are simple, every day steps to protecting yourself online.
In the final Part 3 of our series, we’ll talk about what to do if you think you’ve been the victim of identity theft. Stay tuned, and stay safe!
Email Dan Fadayomi if you have questions or would like an internet safety assessment at your home or office.