One of the many results and byproducts of being sheltered in place and immobilized for almost a year now is this ever increasing reliance on the internet and all things “on line.” Our ability to function on a daily basis has been funneled and herded onto grocery apps, online learning and the list goes on. I’ll set aside my feelings on all this screen time for now (as I sit here typing away wearing blue light glasses…sigh) and turn to today’s topic of the digital castle that is your identity and financial information. As you might expect, there has been a sharp increase in identity theft/fraud and this is based on just these crimes and cases we know about. Our digital identity is under attack and here are three steps you can take to build a moat, add more bricks and train a dragon to help protect and defend against would be threats:
- The Moat – Use a password keeper – I am no stranger to the post-it note full of passwords or using the same password for 19 different websites. A password keeper, for example, LastPass, will store and encrypt your passwords so they are available on your browser or device when you need them. You still need to know your master password to sign into LastPass itself, but now you only have to remember one unique password instead of trying to keep track of forty five different ones. For more information on LastPass, click here.
- The Bricks – Two-Factor Authentication – Most websites will offer two-factor authentication, which adds an extra layer of solid brick to your castle. In order to gain access and sign into that website, you will not only need the password (factor one), but also be able to enter the key/pin that is sent to your phone/device (factor two). This is a solid additional security step, even for things like your email or social media accounts.
- The Dragon – Freeze your credit – When you freeze your credit, you are locking out anyone and everyone from using your credit, even yourself. No one can open a phony Verizon Wireless account in your name without your knowing. When you do need your credit, whether to buy a home, refinance or when you’re standing at the Macy’s checkout counter, you can request a one time pin that allows that merchant the ability to check your credit. For more information, or to start the credit freeze process, see the big 3 credit agency links below:
Transunion – https://www.transunion.com/credit-freeze
Equifax – https://www.equifax.com/personal/credit-report-services/credit-freeze/
Experian – https://www.experian.com/freeze/center.html
In most cases of ID theft and fraud, you are not liable for the financial damages and consequences. Whether a check gets cashed by the wrong person or your credit card is used to buy a TV at a Walmart in Alabama, there are levels of protection and regulations that don’t leave you holding the bag. However, there is no regulation or protection of your time, energy and the stress involved in these situations. The hours spent on hold with the IRS is trying to find out where your refund went, the 4 trips to Verizon to verify that you are the actual Jane B. Smith in order to close out the fraudulent account…I don’t see the pace of online living and adoption slowing down any time soon so we could all be a little better prepared by upping our defenses today. More to come….
Happy Friday! Please be healthy and stay safe!
PS – Can you tell we’re reading the first Harry Potter book with the kids at night?