It’s one of the hottest industries online and one almost guaranteed to make you more money than you ever dreamed of… as long as you’re willing to risk the price. This is the lure that turns thousands of unscrupulous people into identity thieves each year. In 2012, more than 12 million people were victims of identity fraud, and many of them had no idea how to prevent this crime from happening to them. When it comes to crime prevention, it’s often the simple things that work the best: locking a door, hiding your valuables, and even creating a more secure password for the sites you frequent online.
If it’s memorable, it’s bad
If it’s too much work thinking up elaborate passwords for every site you frequent, you’ve probably got one or two go-to passwords that are easy to remember. Your daughter’s birthday, your childhood address, or your first pet’s name are common examples of simple passwords. The problem is that, although they may be easy to remember, they’re even easier for thieves to find out. One look through your online history, and identity thieves have dozens of possible password phrase ideas based on your interests and past, ready to try out.
The best way to make a secure password is to begin with words that seemingly have nothing to do with your life. Think of a sentence that applies to each site you visit. For your credit union, it may be “I go to First Branch Credit Union every Friday at 3pm.” Use the first initial of each word to create a password, like this: IgtFBCUeF@3pm. Simple to remember, but almost impossible to figure out. Check out this post for more on the importance passphrases.
Make Them Unique
If an identity thief somehow manages to figure out one of your passwords, make it harder for them to access all your information. Create a separate password for every site you frequent. Financial sites, business sites, email, and even social media accounts all hold personal information that can be used against you. Set up a new and unique password every time you join a new site. Google has a great Good To Know page on the best ways to secure your password.
If you feel unsure about making random lists of letters and numbers that a thief might somehow hack, find one of the online random password generators and rely on that to create a series of passwords for you. These free sites will create passwords of meaningless strings of numbers, letters, and punctuation specifically designed to be used as passwords. They’re free, the password is never saved, and you can find as many passwords as you need instantly.
Creating unique and secure passwords are a great start to online security, but they do no good unless you practice basic internet safety. Never give your password to anyone else. Write the passwords down in an address book or other offline spot away from your computer. Consider using an identity protection service as an added layer of protection above the passwords. Install a malware program on your computer to avoid people from remotely accessing your passwords. And finally, never click on a link in an email, even if it looks like it’s from a legitimate site. Type in the correct address in your browser to go to the site, instead.
With a little diligence and some design, you can make sure you’re a lot safe when you’re online.