Did you know that there is one identity fraud victim every THREE seconds in the United States? So how do you protect your identity? The national program to stop cyber terrorism has a “Stop, Think, Connect” program to assist everyone in locking down their information.

  1. “Stop” involves locking down your information. You can accomplish this by creating the strongest online logins possible. Do not use the same password for everything; include numbers and symbols; and use secondary authentication where available. Many banking and credit card companies offer dual authentication that requires you to enter a unique code that they text to you for each login…use this if offered. Your identity is as valuable as cold hard cash…protect it as you would protect your wallet from theft a pickpocket.
  2. “Think” involved the “if it’s too good to be true, it probably is”. Those emails from that Nigerian Prince are a lie; that frantic call telling you your grandson has been kidnapped or is in jail and you need to immediately wire money…lie; that call from the IRS demanding back taxes be paid right now or you’re going to jail, also a lie. Scammers have zero heart and will attack you in your most vulnerable spots. If you receive any call or email making these demands, call the publicly published phone number for the entity making the demands. NEVER GIVE OUT YOUR PERSONAL INFORMATION UNTIL YOU VERIFY THE VERACITY OF THE CALL OR EMAIL.
  3. “Connect” asks that you think about how you connect to the cyber world. This involved using the highest security available for your wireless connections at home and the office. Make sure that you choose the highest security settings for your Wi-Fi and be extremely careful with what you do on your wireless devices when you are connected to public Wi-Fi or on a public computer. Make sure that your computers are protected by legitimate virus software and that you keep current with updates. Know where you are clicking. Going to shop online, make darn sure that the shopping site uses a secure site (ie HTTPS://). Some credit card companies will allow you to establish a “blind” card number for a specific amount to be used within a limited time period. This way you are not inputting your actual card number on-line. And those cute videos or links that your Uncle Walt sends? Resist the urge to click them…these can contain viruses or bots that you will not even notice are being added on to your machine. You also need to be wary of how you share your information on social media sites. Make sure you are not sharing everything publicly, scammers can easily learn about your life from these posts and then craft “personal” attacks that will seem like legitimate opportunities or requests. Know that you grew up in Kalamazoo, MI; that your first pet’s name was Hotdog and your birthday are all security questions that they can use to become you.
As more and more of our lives move to the digital arena, scammers are quick to adapt and find ways to steal your information. And it’s not just professional hackers anymore. The ability to access the “dark web” and buy a bot or virus that you then simply email to people, means that just about anyone could try to attack you online. There are some fantastic resources to help you lock-down your identity and protect what is yours.
  • The Federal Trade Commission has a website dedicated to cyber security with many tools aimed at helping you stay safe.
  • The FBI runs the “Internet Crime Complaint Center” (IC3) that allows you to file complaints about cyber crime activity.
  • The National Cyber Security Alliance has a comprehensive website to teach you how to protect yourself and your business from cyber attacks.
  • It’s important to get your children involved…they often will click at random and that can spell disaster! Check out the NetSmartz Workshop website managed by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children for tips to protect your children online and how to stop them from wandering aimlessly online.
  • Finally, you can see real-time cyber attacks around the globe at Norse Corp’s website. It’s a bit frightening to see the active attacks.
Hackers are not going away, as a matter of fact they are become more bold in their approaches, so it falls to us to protect ourselves, family, businesses and communities. Take the time to learn how to “lock down” and protect your information and train yourself and others in your home to the do’s and don’ts of online safety.

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