It is no surprise that identity theft is something we should all be concerned with. But did you know that last year’s identity theft numbers increased to more than 650%, and is expected at easily double again next year. The IRS alone has MILLIONS, yes millions, of fraudulent tax returns filed this last tax season – causing chaos for legitimate returns to be delayed up to 180-days. There are so many incidents the FBI and local law enforcement agencies are overwhelmed, most unable to do anything other than recommend self-help solutions, such alerting credit report agencies (Experian, FICO, Equifax, TransUnion, Innovis, and PRBC – for the U.S.) and reporting to an online government identity theft program (identitytheft.gov – for the U.S.).
Identity theft is nothing new… but now it is just too common for our information to be obtained digitally. Being digital, your identity can be taken from anywhere around the world. It is no surprise that the number one country identity theft comes out of is Russia, and the top victimized country in the world is America! It is something we should seriously think about.
There are few simple things that can be done to protect your identity on your computer, but it takes effort to do so. I challenge everyone to take a stronger stance against these types attacks – be proactive!
- Strengthen your passwords! It’s time to make your passwords more complex and changed more regularly. Use complex passwords no less than 10 characters in length, and make a point to change them at least every year. Never use the same password twice or variations of that password – changing one digit isn’t going to cut it anymore. Never let your passwords have a dictionary word or name inside it, even if you swap out numbers, letters and special characters in it. Avoid using the same password over and over again – keep them guessing.
- Change your passwords frequently! Most people will ignore this recommendation as it’s more of an inconvenience and hassle than anything else. But taking a few minutes annually or bi-annually to change your password to something completely new – again keep them guessing.
- Clean-up your tracks! It is extremely important to clean your browser and computer frequently, if not every time it’s being used. This includes cookies, history and cache. Most browsers have some kind of Privacy or Anonymous mode – use them to protect yourself from websites attempting to get information from you – stay anonymous.
- Securely connect to websites! Avoid websites that do not utilize secure connection security – also referred to as SSL. Look for a lock or the “https” portion in the URL (example: going to google.com will automatically place you securely to https://google.com). This should be a standard practice for all legitimate websites. This security ensures that you are communicating only with that website and not some other unknown website – be cautious.
- Upgrade your computer! Older computers just do not support today’s level of security that protects the computer and your personal data – leaving you vulnerable. If you are NOT running the latest Microsoft Windows 10 or Apple IOS version 10.11 operating system, consider upgrading to enhance your security and protection. Antivirus and other protective software’s are not enough to keep you safe.
- Upgrade your software! Running software that is older than 8-years is pushing the envelope in today’s world – a lot has changed and should be considered a risk. Microsoft Office and Adobe products are among the most common and least updated.
The most frivolous things we let others have, becomes the most crucial thing used against us – give them an inch and they will take more than a yard!
– Russell Kirkpatrick