There are thieves everywhere and the Internet has its fair share of bandits of all types. The most frightening and potentially dangerous thief is the identity thief. An identity thief can go beyond stealing the contents of your bank accounts or running up debts on your credit card. Identity theft can result in you being pursued for debts incurred in your name by the thief, being blacklisted by credit reference agencies and even being arrested on criminal charges. By taking a few simple precautions, you can ensure your identity is safe online. The following are seven effective tips for password protection online.
Password Protection Tips
1. Do not use the same password for everything. There are many people who use one password for everything because they would have trouble remembering numerous passwords and can’t be bothered to write them all down. If you use the same password for everything and a thief gets hold of it, he has access to every online facility you use. If a crook gets hold of your personal details for any program, one of his first actions will be to check to find out if you have a PayPal account where you use the same password.
2. Do not use any words to be found in the dictionary as passwords. Passwords should be a meaningless mixture of letters, numbers and (if the login permits) symbols. Thieves use software programs that can identify dictionary words when they are used as passwords.
3. Do not use obvious things for identity confirmation. Your date of birth, mother’s maiden name, father’s middle name etc are matters of record that are available to thieves. Choose a more obscure option such as your favourite color or the name of your first school. If a program gives you no choice and you have to provide your mother’s maiden name, don’t give the real one, make one up (and use a different one for each program requiring this information) but make sure you don’t forget the names you invent.
4. Never click a link in any email asking you to update personal information. Any email asking you to do this will be a “phishing” email from thieves trying to get hold of your personal details. If a genuine company needs you to confirm anything, it will ask you to log into your account, it will not ask you to click through via a “special” link.
5. Never tell anyone else your password. No legitimate company will ever ask you to give them your password.
6. Use a software program to store your passwords on your PC. The Mozilla Firefox toolbar will save your login passwords for you and enable you to log in to programs with just one mouse click. Roboform will do the same thing. It will also record the url of sites you log in at and recognize any attempt at phishing. Roboform also has a function to generate completely random passwords for any program you use. The “portable” version of Roboform can be plugged into any pc, thereby enabling you to use your passwords without fear of theft by keystroke loggers.
7. Change your passwords regularly, being sure to use brand new passwords, not recycled ones from a month or two ago. This way the damage will be limited if a thief gets access to a database containing your details.
Identity thieves are everywhere. They are happy to rummage through your garbage in the hope of finding a copy of your bank statement or a discarded utility bill. Compared to that dirty work, stealing your identity via a password you use on the Internet is a pleasant option. It is up to you to make sure the pleasant option is not an easy option for the thieves.