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How to keep Your Identity Safe Online
Keeping Your Identy Safe while Online
June is Internet Safety Month. Yes, it has it own month. Lets face it, there is almost nothing you can't do online today. But with the rise in use of the Internet comes the rise in identity theft and cybercrime.
We all have heard the stories of thousands and hundreds of thousands of identities and personal information being stolen by hackers. The latest and greatest were the gaming giants of Nintendo and Sony. Not to mention large banks like Citi and Bank of America reporting some security breaches over the past few months.
So what is a regular, non tech guru type of person to do about keeping their identity safe from all the hacks, thieves and even government officials?
Cyber Stealth your way to Safety
There is plenty you can do short of not using the Internet. And you don't need to use one of those costly services that you hear about on the TV or radio. Yes you are probably inundated by commercials for services that promise to protect your identity. The problem is, they usually don't prevent the problem from happening, they just alert you after it happens. By then at least some level of damage has been done.
So without shelling out 10 to 30 bucks a month to these pretty useless services, what is a cyber-citizen supposed to do?
Now this may sound a little extreme but follow me on this. Except for financial and government sites, you need to delete every singe account you have that requires a name and password. What? But I use those sites is what you are probably saying.
7 Cyber Security Tips
- Your name: Use a nick-name or middle name. Try to never use your full real name.
- Your location: Give a bogus location. No need to let everyone know where you are
- Date of Birth: Use an anniversary or some other memorable date instead
- Birth City: Give a bogus city or maybe your favorite vacation spot
- Maiden Name: Instead of your or your mothers maiden name, make one up.
- Phone Number: Use alternate phone
- E-Mail: Use spam email accounts
How to be Cyber Stealthy
The reason you want to delete your profiles and accounts is simple. You are going to re-join them but in stealth mode. However, before I get into how to go stealth, let me make one thing clear. Unless its government, financial or maybe work related, there is absolutely no reason any site or site owner should be asking you for your Social Security number. NEVER give it out. Any site requiring this information is nothing more than a spam site and will likely steal your identity.
Stealth mode is easy and simple to do. You can sign up for any and all your favorite sites by using a different name and birth date. Here is how it works. When sites ask for your name, email, birthday and phone, you can give them different information. Instead of your first name, use your middle name. If you are like some people who have two middle names, then use them both.
Set up a special spam email account and use that email account when you have to enter email information for a site. I have two spam email accounts and let me tell you they both get lots of junk email daily.
Your birthday does not have to be your birthday. Use an anniversary date if it fits. If that anniversary makes you under 18 years of age, then you will have to chose another date. But make the date something you can remember. I know someone who adds one digit to his birthday. Lets say his real birthday is 3/4.70. He adds one to each number and his birthday appears as if it were 4/5/71. Its easy to remember for him.
As for a phone number, well sometimes that is a bit trickier. Most sites that ask for it won't ever call you, they will just send you spam text advertisements. So you have a number of options here. You can use a fake number (which doesn't work all the time) or you can use an online or cyber number such as what you get with SKYPE. The best way, but it does cost a little bit of cash, is to buy one of those prepaid phones. No trace, no tracking. And if you get calls on it, then you know something is out of the ordinary.
Is this Legal
You are probably saying, that is being dishonest. Not at all. You are protecting your identity and as long as you are not trying to steal or get something for nothing outside the realm of the site, it is not unethical at all.
What is unethical is companies and sites having their systems hacked, your information stolen and them not telling you for weeks or months down the road. And yes companies do this daily. So does the government, but you cannot use an alternate identity with the government. That will get you into big trouble.
Other things to keep your identity safe is to change your passwords often. At least once a month or once ever two months. I use a simple system of rotation for my passwords. I have a list that I have written down of about 30 passwords. Yes 30. I rotate these passwords ever month. I don't use the same password for every account I have online, that would make it too easy for criminals.
I don't use variations of the same password either, again that makes it too easy for criminals. Yes, it may be a pain in the butt to do this, however, its an even bigger pain trying to get your good name back once it has been stolen or your life savings have been pilfered. Change your password often. No exceptions.
Social Network Primer
know you want to be social and all but criminals use these photos to make fake identification cards and other identification information. I once had a friend write me an angry email asking why I never respond to any of her post on a particular social network. I did not respond simply because I did not have an account there. But someone else pretending to be me with my picture did have an account.
Yes it was harmless but a little unnerving. It also took me about a month to prove my identity with the social network in order to have that account deleted. So protect your online image as well and keep it to a minimum.
Lastly, whenever you decide that a site is no longer for you, DELETE IT! It is amazing how many people leave accounts unattended. Criminals look for abandoned accounts. If they notice an account with no activity for a month or more, they make their move. Delete any and all un-used or under-used accounts.
Its Common Sense
One more thing. Just use common sense when dealing with the Internet. Don't give out personal information to just anyone. Make sure you know who you are dealing with and why they have a need for your personal information. Social Networks have no reason to ask for personal data. All of these steps will go a long way in keeping you safe online and making sure you and only you have access to your personal data. Oh, and whenever you hear about a company or site that has had a security breach, CHANGE YOUR PASSWORD TO THAT SITE IMMEDIATELY!
Please leave a comment below and give other suggestions on how to stay safe online. If you enjoyed this article then please share it with others. You may also find my other articles of value to you. Why not read them or follow me so you know when I publish more informative articles here. Thanks for reading. Stay cyber safe.