Between the Equifax breach, which left 145.5 million people vulnerable to identity theft, and the Yahoo breach, which exposed the personal information of 3 million people, 2017 was a bad year for personal security.
I hope you were fortunate enough to be untouched by these breaches, but the fact of the matter is your personal information is in so many places every single day.
In the high-speed world we live in, it’s probably wise to assume that all of our personal information is already compromised. So the most proactive thing you can do is mitigate any possible harm.
Though you can’t prevent 2018’s breaches, you have a great deal of power to protect yourself and your business.
• Get real-time reports on your credit rating and financial transactions. It’s hard for an identity thief to gain traction with your financial information if you’re able to track changes as they happen. Start using a personal finance service like Mint, Credit Karma or Personal Capital.
• Think twice about using a debit card. Fraudulently charged debit cards don’t offer the same protection and dispute mediation as credit cards. Most credit card companies are proactive about noticing strange activity on your card and verifying it with you. Then, they’ll typically remove all wrongful transactions from your bill. If you still want to use a debit card, ask your bank if they have a system to alert you of suspicious activity.
• Be street smart online. Don’t use public Wi-Fi to make credit card purchases or to send sensitive emails or personal information. Always double check to see if your browser bar has “https” when you’re buying online. The additional “s” means your traffic is encrypted for your security. Speaking of browsers, make sure your autocomplete settings are turned off so they won’t store your private information.
• Don’t be lazy about your passwords. Passwords should be impossible to guess and preferably stored in a secure password manager application, such as LastPass. Beware of cute online surveys and viral posts that ask questions about common passwords and retrieval cues, such as your nickname, your birthdate, your first grade teacher’s name and your pet’s name.
So there you have it: Identity theft is a fact of life, but you can still take charge of your security with intentional, informed steps. Cheers to you and to a secure 2018!
Patrick Holland is the president and CEO of Varay, a local technology company.