Beyond Words

Words, Wit and Wisdom for Today's Style and Decision Makers

Tuesday’s Tip June 26, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 12:48 am

Identity theft


An Identity Crisis


Recent headlines regarding the government’s phone tapping of journalists’ phones and computers and the IRS revelation that it targeted political groups applying for tax-exempt status for closer scrutiny based on their names or political themes has caused many to ask themselves, “is any of my personal information safe?”   Yes and no, depending on many things, of which I’ll outline in today’s “Tuesday’s Tip” blog.


Smartphones have indeed made life easier and information more accessible, but they’ve also made us more vulnerable to someone retrieving personal information off of them, most times without us even knowing it until it’s possibly too late.   How can you protect yourself?


Phones and Other Devices

  • Open pages only from reputable sources.  Four out of 10 mobile devices click on dangerous links every year.
  • Password protect all of your devices.
  • Androids are particularly vulnerable because their apps aren’t always vetted for malware but iPhones are identity thieves’ favorites.  Download the free “Find My iPhone” app, which allows you to remotely wipe out your date, lock your device, and possibly even track its location.  McAfee offers a similar service for Androids.
  • Install antivirus and antimalware software on all your devices.
  • Purchase apps only from trusted sources.


PIN Numbers

These four-digit numbers are hacker’s dreams.  If your PIN is your birth date, a year in the 1900s, or an obvious numerical sequence, the odds of it being compromised increase dramatically.


Surprisingly, 1234, 1111, and 0000 account for 20 percent of all four-digit passwords and every combination that starts with 19 ranks in the 80th percentile of popularity.  Month/day combinations are also prevalent, as are combinations using only even numbers, like 2468.


Create passwords that include upper and lowercase letters as well as numbers and change your passwords often.


Why should you care about these statistics?  Because by using them you are automatically making your password easier to guess.  The least popular PIN seems to be 8068 because it follows no discernible pattern.



Protecting Your Identity

In 2011, more than 11 million Americans were victims of identity theft.  I can’t even imagine the horror of finding out someone out there is posing as me and has all my personal information.  Computer viruses, so-called “dumpster divers,” and old-fashioned hackers are three of the most common ways your personal information, and your personal identity, can be accessed by high-tech hoodlums.   How can you protect yourself?


  • Shred all pieces of mail that include your name and address.
  • Create passwords that include upper and lowercase letters as well as numbers and change your passwords often.
  • Protect all your devices with anti-virus and malware software.
  • Password protect all of your devices.
  • Purchase or download remote “wipe” apps like those mentioned in the phone information above.
  • Don’t participate in any on-line quizzes that ask information such as pet names, hometowns, mother’s maiden names, and other bits of personal info.


Scary world out there, right?  What can you do somewhat worry free?  Most experts agree that you can:

  • Read your favorite online magazines, newspapers and news outlets sites.
  • Access music through music players, but be sure to buy songs only from reputable and safe sites.
  • Use GPS systems.


Those same experts agree, however, that you should never:

  • Use mobile banking sites.
  • Use free Wi-Fi in places like airports.
  • Update your Facebook page remotely, especially if your page includes your birthday, hometown and other personal information, as someone can easily figure out security questions once armed with this info.


So, enjoy your latest and greatest smart phone and research away on your laptop and notebook.  Just make sure to surf smart and surf safe.







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