Staying Safe in the Cyber World

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By Valerie McKay

Money Matters with Val

A couple years ago, I received a letter from the FBI stating that my identity had been stolen along with thousands of others.  They had caught the criminals and they were awaiting prosecution, but the letter recommended that I did several things to make sure my identity was not being used by other criminals.  Luckily, to date, I have not suffered any financial consequences from this breach.  

But keeping my identity safe, especially on-line, is of utmost importance.

Many of us like to surf and shop on line.  But giving out our personal or financial information on line can be very dangerous.  To keep your identity and financial information safe when making transactions on line, there several things to consider.  Here are just a few tips:

 

Make sure your passwords are complicated and contain a combination of capital and small letters, numbers and special characters and change your passwords often.  Because passwords are difficult to remember, I recommend a password safe application that stores your passwords in an encrypted file on your computer.  It works like this –  You enter one password to get into the safe and there you store logins and passwords for the websites that you use.  The application can generate difficult passwords for you and you don’t have to remember them – just copy and paste them into the website.  The free application that I use can be found and downloaded at passwordsafe.sourceforge.net.  Again that is passwordsafe.sourceforge.net.

Never allow Microsoft windows to store your login and password information.  If someone hacks into your computer they can easily surf your history and enter the websites posing as you, using the saved login information

Never store your credit card information on a website.  Although this makes things easier when making a transaction, it also makes it easier for the bad guys to grab that information and use it.

When making purchases on line, only use one credit card that you can monitor easily and often.

Only make on-line transactions over secure networks.  Don’t do your online shopping over open wifi connections like at a coffee shop.  These open connections make it very easy for hackers to tap into your information.

Beware of phishing emails.  An email that asks for a social security number or credit card number is not legitimate.  Banks and credit card companies will not contact you via email for this information.  And don’t click on any links in these types of emails.  Hackers can set up phony websites that look legitimate.

If you ever recycle your computer, it is not safe to simply erase your hard drive and delete files.  Deleted files can be retrieved easily.  Take the hard drive out of the computer and physically drill holes in it.  That way the hard drive is destroyed and information cannot be retrieved from it.

Check your credit at least annually, as you can obtain free credit reports from the credit bureaus, Trans Union, Equifax and Experian.  You can also set up alerts with the bureaus to notify you if someone tries to apply for credit in your name

I encourage you to search the web for other tips to keeping your identity safe.  Identity theft can cause devastating financial effects.  So be safe out there in the cyber world!