Many people have an irresistible urge to make resolutions as the calendar flips to a new year. They declare this will be the year for healthy work habits and less squandered social media time, with a bit more exercise thrown in for good measure.
No matter what your intentions might be for spiffing up your 2016, here’s one more to consider: finding ways to help prevent identity theft.
Although that goal doesn’t have the magazine-quality appeal of trimming your waistline or getting more sleep, it’s just as important for your well-being. With threats continuing to rise and criminals finding new ways to target more people, focusing on increasing your security is a resolution you really should keep.
Here are some basics on how to prevent identity theft in the New Year:
- Change passwords regularly: Just as some resolutions get repeated year after year (no more break-room cookies!), this advice is worth repeating. Antivirus giant Symantec recommends changing your passwords every three months, and other security experts have warned against having the same password across multiple sites. Create strong passwords by putting together a combination of uppercase/lowercase letters along with numbers and symbols. Also: Avoid identifying words, like a child’s or pet’s name, since those can be guessed more easily.
- Secure your connection: Even with bulletproof passwords, identity thieves could still get into your data if your connection lets them slip in. Upgrade your home network if you haven’t changed that password in a while, and check that you have a firewall turned on. With public Wi-Fi, implement security tactics that will keep you safe, such as waiting to check financial information until you’re home and turning off file-sharing.
- Update your system and software: You’ve probably had that moment when you’re right in the middle of something, and you get an alert from your software provider with a security upgrade. It’s very tempting to resolve to do it later, but make sure that “later” happens. Hackers are very adept at breaking into systems by using known vulnerabilities, relying on users who skip security updates. When considering how you can help to prevent identity theft, having the latest and greatest protection working for you can go a long way.
- Check your transactions: Sometimes, identity thieves charge a small amount to a bank account, often under $10. This is a way to check that a charge will go through; if it’s not caught, the thief might try for a much larger sum or use the banking information to open new credit accounts. To help protect yourself, always review your monthly credit card and bank statements to verify the charges are appropriate, even for the smallest amounts. You can also track your transactions through online banking — just be sure to check those accounts from home or another trusted and secure connection. And, if you’re an IdentityForce customer, make sure that you take advantage of our Bank and Credit Card Activity Alerts.
- Secure your mobile devices: Considering the amount of personal information that can be stored on a smartphone, e-reader, or laptop, it’s vital to password-protect those devices. Also be aware of the signs that your device may have already been hacked, such as erratic behavior or shorter-than-normal battery life.
No matter what other resolutions you may have in mind, let’s all make 2016 a banner year for identity theft protection!