How to Protect Yourself from Online Identity Theft

Sunday, January 20, 2013

How to Protect Yourself from Online Identity Theft


In the 21st century, few of us can say that we have not posted an alarming amount of our personal information online. It is not just what we post on Facebook, but services like online banking requires that all our most personal details are stored online.



Here are some steps you can take to protect your online identity:

  • Pick strong passwords. Identity thieves can use password decryption software to access your accounts, so the more complex your password, the better. Short simple passwords can be decrypted in a day, long ones take years. So make it long, and use a combination of letters, numbers and signs like the "at sign" or the "and sign" in the middle. Password managers like 1Password, LastPass and KeePass create random character combinations when you need a password and keep track of them.

  • The same holds for the answer to your security question that sites use to verify your identity when you lose your password. If it asks for your place of birth and you type in a city name, decryption software can find that answer in minutes - there aren't that many city names, after all. But if you type in a combination of letters and numbers as with your password, it becomes substantially more difficult.

  • Do not use the same password everywhere. If one website is hacked and your login details are stolen, those thieves can then access everything in your life with that same password. If it is difficult for you to manage numerous passwords, use the same password for sites that store little of your information, but different ones for sites that store a lot.

  • Set up login notification with your bank and Facebook so that you receive a text message when someone logs into your account.

  • As inconvenient as it might be, use a different phone number and email address for online transactions. That leaves part of your identity offline.

  • Use strong anti-virus software that can alert you when someone tries to fish information from your hard drive. And be careful about giving lots of information in response to email requests, even if they look official. Such emails are often designed to obtain your personal information.

  • Another type of identity theft that you need to protect yourself from is if you have a company and the brand gets hijacked. Register your company's name on Facebook, Twitter and other networks as soon as you can so someone else cannot use it.