More and more of our lives take place on the internet. Connecting with friends and family, looking up a recipe, conducting business or just scrolling through social media. But the more time we spend online and the more information we share about ourselves online; the more we open ourselves up to attacks that compromise our information and identity. Security attacks can happen in an instant and have devastating effects on our lives without us even knowing about them for some time. Last year, the Federal Trade Commission received three million identity theft reports, and 1.4 million of those were fraud related.
Source: Federal Trade Commission, Consumer Sentinel Network
Yes, you know it’s important to periodically check your credit report, your financial statements and your cellphone account. But realistically, cyber security breeches are happening all the time and all over the globe. There’s only so much time in the day between your job, your kids, spending time with your partner, doing errands, taking the dog out…oh, and weren’t you going to take up yoga?
That’s why it’s important to have safeguards in place to protect your digital footprint on the internet before your identity is stolen. Here are 7 easy actions that you can take to protect your identity both online and offline. Take these actions today to empower and secure yourself from identity theft.
USE A PASSWORD MANAGER
One of the most dangerous ways we leave ourselves vulnerable to identity theft is by using the same password (or a slight variation of it) for the majority of our online logins. It’s impossible (and a pain in the butt) to have to remember and type long, complicated passwords. A password manager eliminates that problem and allows you create an unlimited number of different passwords for your accounts in a flash.
The security of using totally unique passwords for each of your logins involves the principle of compartmentalization. The ultimate goal is to keep everything on every account separate (or compartmentalized) from each other. This helps minimize your exposure to data breaches.
For example, Rebecca uses the same password for her gmail account, cell phone service, checking account and her Starbucks account. What happens if Starbucks servers are hacked and all their customer information (including e-mails and passwords) were exposed? Rebecca not only had her Starbucks login stolen, but the hackers also got her credentials to login into some other very important parts of her life. That is why it is important that each account you have be protected by a unique and complex password.
Password managers like RoboForm, 1Password and Dashlane will remember them for you. In fact, many firewall security packages come with a free password manager tool already included. The idea is pretty simple: a password app lives on your phone or on your computer (and many have browser extensions to make Auto-Filling your online accounts a breeze). You are only tasked with remembering one password as opposed to dozens. This password unlocks your password manager’s vault which contains all your other passwords.
Advantages of Password Managers:
- Password managers can auto-create super long and secure passwords for you.
- You never have to type them in because you can just copy and paste them from the password manager into whatever you’re trying to log into.
- Having unique and long passwords is the most important and easiest way for you to significantly increase the security of your identity online.
- Very inexpensive and effective action you can take to lock down your identity security.
- Many password managers syn seamlessly between your smart phone and your desktop or laptop, making their use even easier.
- IMPORTANT NOTE: Make sure that your login password to your Password Manager is truly unique and different from all your others. Choose something you have never used before and be sure to include symbols and numbers to mix it up.
Choose a password manager app and begin using it this week.
ENABLE 2-STEP AUTHENTICATION
2-Factor Authentication can completely shut down someone trying to take control of your accounts and should be enabled for any of your accounts that support it.
Two Factor Authentication gets its’ name because you have to prove 2 factors before access to the account is granted. This is done by not only requiring the user to enter the correct username/password combo, but also to receive a second method of verification outside of the website itself. This is usually done by sending you an authentication code via text or email. That code must be confirmed as the second authenticator, or it’s ACCESS DENIED.
The general principle behind this adds an extremely effective layer of security to your account access because if someone trying to get into your account has one piece of the puzzle (i.e. password leak in a data breach or you had your cellphone stolen) an identity thief won’t be able to pass both tests.Take Action #2
If available, upgrade your security settings to two-step authentication this month as you are logging into the accounts you use in your everyday life.
STOP A SIM SWAP
Most cellphones contain a small little card called a SIM card. If you’ve ever opened up or replaced your cell phone, you’ve probably seen the small plastic micro-chipped SIM card inside your phone. That little card is holding your cellular footprint. That SIM card tells your android or iPhone what your phone number is and what cellular plan you have.
What may not know is that even though your SIM card is a physical micro-chipped card, you do not have to have physical access to a phone to mess around with your SIM. It can be accessed remotely. This means an attacker can also hack and gain remote access. This type of attack is called “SIM swapping” and it’s when an attacker has your phone number switched from your phone to another phone in their control. They hijack your phone and everything in it.
Remember what we just discussed about 2-Factor Authentication? Any codes sent to your cellphone will be sent right to the new phone, so they can more easily get into to your accounts.Take Action #3
Call your cellphone provider this week and set up a special password to protect against your number being ported. Different carriers refer to it by different names, but every major carrier offers it. Once it’s set up, a unique password will be required before your provider will complete a port of your phone number.
USE A VIRTUAL PROCESSING NETWORK
Virtual Processing Networks (aka VPN’s) are getting a lot of attention with the new awareness by American citizens of how their personal data is being used by companies for profit motives. Ever wonder how that pair of amazing shoes you were looking at online this morning suddenly showed up in the Facebook ads you see that evening? It’s because of the digital footprint you are leaving each time you visit a site and how these sites are sharing your browsing information between platforms to increase sales. Yes, Big Brother is truly watching!
What is a VPN?
A VPN allows you to put an extra layer of privacy between you and the website you are visiting at any given time. Imagine a VPN as a hack-proof, encrypted tunnel for online traffic to flow. Nobody can see through the tunnel and get their hands on your internet data.
There are several very good VPN providers, but we recommend NordVPN because it’s what we use at Defense Divas® and it has proven to be smart investment in our internet security. NordVPN is a very robust and affordable option to add an extra layer of internet security to your browsing history. With plans as low as $2.99/month it’s easy to have peace of mind each time you use public/hotel Wi-Fi, access personal and work accounts on the road, or want to keep your browsing history to yourself.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Read the fine print before signing up. Make sure that the VPN provider you select does not store your browsing data. It defeats the purpose if your VPN provider itself has a data breach and your personal info is compromised. NordVPN does not store any of your browsing history data.Take Action #4
Set aside 30 minutes this week to compare VPN’s and their benefits to your internet security.
GO PAPERLESS & BUY A SHREDDER
If you can, you should opt-in to go paperless whenever possible. Ever have your mail go missing or delivered to your neighbor by accident? How about every receiving someone else’s mail and opening it in error (or to just be nosy!) Removing the paper from your life closes that gap of opportunity for identity thieves.
In 2018, consumers reported over $1.8 BILLION DOLLARS in credit card fraud and many of the thieves are stealing your identity right out of your mailbox and garbage can! Criminals are bold enough to actually drive up and take mail right out of your mailbox and others do nightly garbage collection routes to pick up random trash out of neighbor’s garbage at the curb and then go through it to find usable information.
What’s in Your Garbage Can?
The paperwork that came inside your mail order prescription? They now know the name of your pharmacy and what medications you take. Letters from your kid’s school? They now know your child’s name and where he/she goes to school! Marketing mail from your bank, mortgage company and credit card company all offer snoops enough information to complete your identity profile with a little online research and steal your identity. Shred It!Take Action #5
Switch to paperless billing as you pay your bills this month and shred everything else before throwing it in the trash.
USE YOUR FREE ANNUAL CREDIT REPORT
As an American citizen, you have the right to obtain a free credit report from www.annualcreditreport.com. We suggest that you use this service because it is free and does not require you to provide credit card information. Many others that are available on the internet will rope you into a 30-day credit monitoring trial that you have to remember to cancel before the 30-day trial expires.
Take Action #6
- Pull your credit report at annualcreditreport.com today.
- Make a commitment to review it completely by the end of the week.
- Set up an auto-reminder in your calendar to do the same in 12 months, repeating annually.
FREEZE YOUR CREDIT
Freezing your credit with services like LifeLock ® are an excellent way to prevent your identity from being stolen, but there are pros and cons that come with taking this security measure.
Pros & Cons:
+ Freezes your credit with the 3 major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion).
+ No one can open up a new line of credit in your name.
- That also means you, though, so make sure you’re not going to need a mortgage or new line of credit anytime soon.
+ You can unfreeze your credit at any time, though it may take a couple days.
+ This doesn’t affect any current lines of credit you have or your credit score.
+ You can keep using your current credit cards.
+ Stops a ton of junk mail (no more pre-approved credit card offers)
If you don’t think you’ll need to have any new lines of credit anytime soon, a credit freeze is one of the best things you can do to protect your credit. Credit freezes are also a really smart thing to place on your kids if they’re under 18 (even if they’re newborns!). There have been many horror stories of kids turning 18 or going into college, trying to get a credit card only to find out that at some point when they were younger their identity was stolen and a line of credit opened in their name, ruining their credit worthiness.
Keep in mind, your credit score is used for many more things than just applying for a credit card. It’s used to determine your interest rate on a home or car loan. It’s used to determine if you are required to put down a deposit (and how much) for many utility companies and rental communities. And frankly, it’s a real pain in the butt to correct if it gets screwed up by identity fraud. Freeze it now and unfreeze it when they turn 18.Take Action #7
Commit to spending 30 minutes this week to freezing your child’s credit and possibly your own.
As our lives move more and more onto the online world, or physical identities become tied even tighter with our digital ones. Make sure you’re taking these steps to protect yourself and your family from identity theft and Keep Your Private Junk, Private.
We’ve looked at stepping up your identity protection. Are you ready to step up your self-defense game too? At Defense Divas®, we offer a diva-fantastic selection of self-defense products for women, including bulletproof gear, pepper sprays, stun guns and tasers, concealed carry purses and more. Protect yourself today from an active shooter at work or school with our full line of bulletproof products. Learn more about women’s empowerment, self-defense and female personal safety at Defense Divas®
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