4 Easy Things You’re Not Doing to Protect Yourself Online

Identity thieves are becoming craftier at swiping our valuable personal information. Websites, online merchants and financial institutions are all working to mitigate security risks, and remain ahead of new threats, but using good online security practices can be your best line of defense.

Sure, we’ve all been told to update our passwords regularly, not to use anything too familiar like birthdays or names, and to use obscure or completely random phrases including special symbols, capital letters and numbers. We answer security questions and link images to our accounts as added measures of security.

It’s hard to believe that with all the steps we’re taking to protect our information, thieves still find ways around, but they do. Here are some easy things you’re probably not doing that can help protect your accounts and valuable information.

1.  Answer security questions like a comedian.

What is your maternal grandmother’s first name? Maybe it’s Ethel. Maybe it’s Linda, or Judy. To really be secure, your response should not be your mother’s mother’s first name, or at least not just her name. Security questions usually aren’t programmed to determine whether the information you’re entering is true or false, only that it matches your initial response when setting up your account. Your response could very well be ‘A Colombian Bunny,’ which likely isn’t your grandmother’s name. Random responses protect you from others who might easily guess your answer, or who already know your grandmother’s name. Switching up answers to your security questions can add extra protection—just be sure to remember them!

2.  Keep mum on social media

Sharing on social media can be and is meant to be fun. But oversharing can have some really un-fun outcomes, and not just for your followers who are tired of looking at photos of your kids or reading about your political views. Revealing too much information online opens the door for anyone who is looking for easy access to your information. Thieves can use what you disclose on social media to hack into your bank account or open new accounts in your name. It’s nice to share, just be sure you aren’t sharing information that is too revealing, and that you’re only connecting with people you trust. And don’t just accept a social media site’s default security settings—check to see who you’re agreeing to share your personal life with, and change any settings you’re uncomfortable with.

3.  Use the 20+ approach.

Complexity is a good practice when creating passwords, but lengthening your password to 20+ characters can be effective added protection. The longer the password is, the more difficult it will be to simply guess, and the more difficult it will be for nefarious figures to crack.

4.  Delete Before Disposing.

These days it seems like we’re switching mobile devices at least once a year, and for some of us, more frequently than that. We’re upgrading, replacing and repairing our devices so easily, it’s easy to forget the likelihood that a lot of our personal information is stored on these devices. Completely wipe your device before you dispose of it. Familiarize yourself with the manufacturer’s instructions for permanently deleting information, or contact technical support to be sure your device has been cleaned before disposal. If your device was damaged, contact the manufacturer for further instructions to be sure your information isn’t going to be retrievable.