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Proactive Account Security Measures You Can Take

Here are four steps you can take that may help protect your account information and might limit any damage if you do get hacked.  These measures can be time consuming. It is time well-spent considering that it can take months and years and mountains of paperwork to recover from identity theft.

Setup an Extensive Password List

If hackers are able to get into one of your online accounts (e-commerce, messageboard, newsletter, bank, utility, etc), they will try the same login information for other widely used websites.  Especially vulnerable are passwords for messageboards and free software. Piracy consortiums have been known to buy struggling software providers in order to gain login details to use for their nefarious means.

  1. If you have access to a private computer, create a spreadsheet or document that details each significant username, password, and any security answers. Do not name this document “Passwords”.

  2. Create a unique password for each account that you use or have used to transact business. You should have unique passwords for each bank, e-mail, e-commerce, insurance, investment, social media, and utility account that you have.

  3. Keep your password “cheatsheet” updated.

  4. You can print out your list–just keep it secure.  It can serve as a digital estate.  If you were to pass away then your loved ones could find your list and take care of affairs more easily after your passing.


Take Care with E-mails/Calls

Be suspicious of unsolicited calls and e-mails.  Unsolicited means that you did not ask for them to contact you for that reason.

If a good friend is e-mailing you saying they are in London, were beaten up, lost their wallet and phone, and need money now…

  1. Ask yourself if they are such a good friend to ask me for this money, why didn’t they tell me they were going on vacation?

  2. It’s probably a scam, try calling them or their relatives if you cannot reach them. Let them know about the e-mail because their e-mail probably got hacked.

If you receive an unsolicited phone call from your credit card company, bank, utility provider, etc.  They will never ask for your account information.  If they do, it’s probably a scam.

  1. It’s best to independently find their contact information from their website (enter their website directly into your web browser, do not use a link from an e-mail).

  2. Call them back using the number that you find.

There’s an App for That

If you are using an unsecure Wi-Fi connection to connect to the Internet (from an airport, cafe, hotel, etc), be careful about logging into accounts.  It is safe to login to accounts on an “app” on your smartphone even on an unsecure Wi-Fi.  It is not necessarily safe to login to accounts on a web browser while using unsecure Wi-Fi.

If you can, wait until you are on a secure network to check accounts instead of potentially exposing your login details over an unsecure Wi-Fi.  If you have a recent smartphone, you can use it as a secure Wi-Fi “hotspot”, but then you have to be careful how much data you use.  A home Wi-Fi is generally more secure than a public Wi-Fi.

Place a Credit Freeze

Credit monitoring systems do not prevent identity theft nor prevent bogus accounts being set up in your name.  Credit monitoring systems such as LifeLock simply monitor what’s going on–there is little prevention. In order to prevent your Social Security Number from being used against you, consider placing a credit freeze.

Placing a credit freeze on your credit reports can block an identity thief from opening a new account or obtaining credit in your name. A credit freeze keeps new creditors from accessing your credit report without your permission. If you activate a credit freeze, an identity thief cannot take out new credit in your name, even if the thief has your SSN or other personal information, because creditors cannot access your credit report.” –Indiana Attorney General (http://www.in.gov/attorneygeneral/2891.htm)

  1. Consider placing a credit freeze on children’s accounts until they are at least 21 years of age.  You can temporarily lift the freeze if they want to open a bank account or be considered for financial aid.

“Any Indiana resident can request a credit freeze free of charge. There is no fee for Indiana residents to place, temporarily lift, remove or request a new password or PIN.  To place a freeze, either use each credit agency’s online process or send a letter by certified mail to each of the three credit agencies:”

If you need to open an account, raise a credit limit, refinance, etc, in the future you will need to contact each credit bureau to lift the freeze.  It generally takes less than a day to lift the freeze, and you can also temporarily lift a freeze for a certain time period.

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