Last week I wrote a post about credit-card and identify theft, and since then many people asked me how I protect my passwords online. After all, identify theft can go beyond stealing the contents of your bank accounts or running up debts on your credit card: an identify thief could take charge of your “online life” as well, interacting with your friends online on your behalf. This recently happened to a good friend of mine, so I decided to share some tips. Because simply by taking a few easy precautions, you can ensure your identity stays safe online.
Here are seven effective tips for safeguarding your passwords, and online life:
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 someone gets hold of it, he has access to every online facility you use.
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 site allows it) symbols. Thieves use software programs that can try a combination of dictionary words and “brute force” entry into your online accounts.
3. Do not use obvious things for security questions.
Your date of birth, mother’s maiden name, and even pet’s name are far too easy to guess even for someone who doesn’t know you. Choose the more obscure options 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 by tracking them in an encrypted password application (see below).
4. Never click a link in any email asking you to update personal information.
You’d be surprised how many people click the link in suspicious emails anyways “just to make sure it’s not a scam”. Any (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 in person to physically log into your account, it will never ask you to click through via a “special” link.
5. Never tell anyone else your password.
It’s simple. No legitimate company will ever ask you to give them your password. They shouldn’t need it, period.
6. Use a software program to store your passwords on your PC.
I personally use (and love) Dashlane. It saves your login information and passwords for you, and enables you to log in to programs with just one mouse click. It also has a function to generate completely random passwords for any program you use – and then store those for you so you can login just as easily while keeping your information safe. The “mobile” version Dashlane even works on your smart devices so you have your secure passwords with you all the time.
7. Change your passwords regularly.
Don’t you hate it when your office PC forces you to change your password? It’s actually a good practice that you should be using for everything else as well. Always make 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 much more pleasant option – but it’s up to you to make sure the pleasant option is not an easy option for the thieves.
Readers of Living by Experience can keep track of their passwords with Dashlane’s free password manager. Try it today.Get Dashlane – it’s free
Wilko van de Kamp Author
WILKO VAN DE KAMP is the author of #1 international best seller The Freedom Project and several other books and e-books. He's also an award-winning photographic artist, and professional world traveler. His inspiration comes from traveling all over the world. He calls the Canadian Rocky Mountains his home, and the rest of the world his office. He has been capturing our wonderful planet, and it's beautiful inhabitants, for more than half his life. Wilko has spent his life traveling the world to capture awe-inspiring images for those who wouldn't see them otherwise, and to inspire others to embark on their journey of a lifetime. Through his art, writing and appearances as a keynote speaker he enjoys sharing his colorful experiences with the world.