You’re On Your Own
When the Information You Have Stored
with Someone Else is Stolen
Most corporations and government agencies demand as much personal data as possible: date of birth, address, phone number, driver’s license, bank account number, dependents, social security number, health insurance, and even the phone numbers and addresses for your friends and family.
The problem is when your identity is stolen, you are responsible for fixing the mess, proving your innocence, and paying for all of it out of your pocket. Often, the companies and entities you deal with don’t have much liability, and many terms of service agreements require you to hold them harmless in these situations.
4 Basic Steps for Protecting Your Private Information
One simple and useful plan is subscribing to an identity-theft-protection service. Depending on the service you choose, it may monitor your identity and credit inquiries, help fix and repair your identity after a theft occurs, and even aid in catching the criminals.
Due to the rapid rise in identity theft, this industry has exploded, and there are many services available for you to investigate. Two that you can start with are iSekurity and Pre-Paid Legal’s Identity Theft Shield.
Use a Pseudonym, Pen Name, Stage Name
In today’s world, your digital identity can be as good as money. Use aliases and “filler” information for non-essential accounts. For instance, should you give your real date of birth just to sign up for a 6-week tai chi class? Is it prudent to type in your real name, home address, or phone number online?
You’ll have to weigh the risks and make this decision yourself. A question to ask yourself is, “What’s the worst that can happen if your pseudonym causes ‘trouble’ at the specific vendor or agency in question?“
Everyone “wants, requires, demands, and needs” your official details, but when your data gets stolen, those people wash their hands and look the other way. Something to think about.
Use Better Passwords
Researchers say most people use the same password (or very similar ones) across all their accounts. This is a big no-no. Once the password is compromised, the thieves could access to all your other accounts (banking, medical, insurance, work, etc.).
A growing problem is many online companies want to make it “easier” to use their services by letting you log in with the same credentials as your Facebook or Google account, for instance.
As an example, the popular music platform Spotify only works if you have a Facebook account, and you can only login by using the same name and password for your Facebook account. In other words, you’re forced to use one password for multiple accounts.
What you should do instead (if you’re able) is use a completely different password for each account. It may be tedious, but there are tools that make this easy, fast, and offer much stronger protection.
Use a Password Manager
These tools take the complexity and tediousness of generating, memorizing, and typing in passwords a thing of the past. There are many to choose from, and one worth looking into is LastPass
To use a password manager, first create one strong and LONG password to access the tool. Then you let the tool generate new, strong, and LONG passwords for all your accounts (this happens at a click of button). Next, the manager memorizes and stores all your passwords (you no longer have to memorize any of them). Last, with one click the manager inputs the passwords for you.
Take a look at the recommendations above. Lock everything down as well as you can; use special tools like password managers to create and manage strong passwords; then, consider using filler information and pen names wherever possible, so if your details are ever stolen, the crooks don’t get anything of value.