Cybersecurity, phishing and identity theft are all interwoven. Here are a few tips that cover various aspects of our identity protection.
First, take control of your credit reports. Examine your own report at each of the “big three” bureaus. You get one free report from each credit bureau once per year. You can request them by going to AnnualCreditReport.com. Make sure there’s nothing inaccurate in those reports, and file for correction if needed. Then initiate a credit freeze at each of those plus two other smaller ones. Instructions can be found at Krebs on Security ( https://krebsonsecurity.com/2018/09/credit-freezes-are-free-let-the-ice-age-begin/ ). To keep an eye on your credit report all year, space out your credit bureau requests by requesting a report from a different credit bureau every four months.
Next, practice good digital hygiene. Just as you lock your front door when you leave home and your car when you park it, make sure your digital world is secured. This means:
– Engage your brain. Think before you click. Think before you disclose personal information in a web form or over the phone.
– Think before you share on social media sites. Some of those fun-to-share-with-your-friends quizzes and games ask questions that have a disturbing similarity to “security questions” that can be used to recover your account. Do you want the answers to your security questions to be published to the world?
– Back. It. Up. What do you do if you are hit with a ransomware attack? (Or a run-of-the-mill disk failure?) If you have a recent off-line backup, your data are safe, and you can recover without even thinking about paying a ransom.
– Full disk encryption is your friend. If your device is stolen, it will be a lot harder for a thief to access your data, which means you can sleep at night.
– Check all your accounts statements regularly. Paperless statements are convenient in the digital age. But it is easy to forget to check infrequently used accounts such as a health savings account. Make a recurring calendar reminder to check every account for activity that you don’t recognize.
– Manage those old-style paper statements. Don’t just throw them in the trash or the recycle bin. Shred them with a cross-cut shredder. Or burn them. Or do both. Data stolen from a dumpster are just as useful as data stolen from a website.
The FTC has an identity theft page at https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/features/feature-0014-identity-theft