You may have already engaged in a solid spring clean of your home or car, shaking out the dust from seasons past, ready to start fresh. Your spring cleaning shouldn’t stop there. The change in seasons is a good opportunity to do practice cyberhygiene through a good core clean of your digital clutter in order to keep yourself safe from identity theft and fraud.
“Your best defense against identity theft? A proactive offense. It goes a long way to keeping you organized and more efficient. Practicing cyberhygiene and decluttering your digital presence gives you a sense of security,” says Jeff Schwartz, executive director, Consolidated Credit Counseling Services of Canada.
“Being the victim of identity theft can lead to a financial disaster. Your money can vanish and your credit history can be seriously damaged. It can take years to repair your credit from the fraudster’s actions.”
Keep your friends close and your enemies closer
There are a lot of benefits to social media. Keeping in touch with family and friends in a real-time way has never been easier. However, fraudsters will be always be scouring the internet looking for victims. The less personal information you have out there, the better.
As an extra precaution, make sure that your online “friends” are actually your friends. Unfortunately there are people out there who have the sole objective of defrauding you for their financial gain. That’s not very friendly, now is it?
The password please
Identity fraudsters are always moving, trying to stay ahead of the latest and greatest in internet safety and security. By the same notion, when it comes to your passwords, you’ve got to be dynamic as well.
It’s time to collect your passwords and to evaluate their security. While it may be difficult to remember multiple passwords, it’s an extra safety measure to have a few different passwords in circulation.
You should make a habit of changing your passwords on a regular basis. As a rule of thumb, the longer the better. Include a combination of characters, letters and numbers. It’s all about trying to stump the hackers. Never use obvious things like birthdays (yours or family members), names, addresses or anything at all related to your personal information. Remember, hackers are sophisticated (and are getting craftier all the time). A quick sweep of your social media accounts can reveal that kind of information. It doesn’t take much for them to be able to guess your password if it’s based on personal info. And once they’ve got that, you are very vulnerable to a cyber-attack.
The backup plan
If you aren’t already, make a point of backing up your computer to an external drive. Even the most sophisticated virus protection software (and users) can be outsmarted from time to time. You’ll save yourself some serious headaches and inconvenience, if you’ve got your essential information still accessible, virus-free.
Take some time to check in on your virus software, especially if you’ve been using the same one for a while. Does it still meet your needs? Are you adequately protected?
Have you been a victim of identity theft and are struggling to rebuild your finances and repair your credit? We can help. Call one of our trained credit counsellors or check out our free online debt analysis.