Updated: Dec 21, 2020
There are several steps you can take to lower your risk of identity theft or hacking. Some are simple while others are a little more involved.
1) Freeze your credit reports.
The credit agencies make money selling your credit report to banks, credit card processing agencies, insurers, retailers, healthcare organizations and public agencies. Naturally, because the credit data and FICO score are sensitive numbers, identity thieves are interested in obtaining them, especially for those with good credit. An identity thief with your credit report can open accounts or borrow money in your name.
You can prevent this by freezing your credit at the credit agencies. A credit freeze will allow you to give informed consent before any company can access your credit reports. This prevents fraudulent new accounts being opened with your identification. You may temporarily lift or permanently remove your freeze, using a PIN. There may be a small fee to place the freeze and when unfreezing and refreezing the account.
2) Use 2-factor-authentication on your email, bank and brokerage accounts
By now, most of you are familiar with this method of authentication to access a system or account. For your bank, brokerage, and email accounts where this is an option, please select it. While not perfect, it requires that you and your telephone be in the loop to access a critical account.
3) Get a Password application
Ok, admit it. You probably have used the same password on multiple websites. You also probably have a spreadsheet or word document with a list of passwords so you can remember them.
It is time to modernize and use an application designed specifically for tracking passwords. A password application typically performs 3 primary tasks:
Generates complex, non-repeating passwords
Saves these passwords with your login credentials
Provides password access across your phone, tablet and computer devices
Here is a list of the most downloaded password apps on Google:
Keeper Password Manager
Symantec Norton Password
I admit being a reluctant adopter of this technology. However, now that I am used to it, there is no going back to a spreadsheet. Incidentally, my LastPass app allows me to print a hardcopy of all logins and passwords, so there is a hard copy back up for cyber-paranoids like me.
4) Use electronic signature tools whenever possible
Tools such as DocuSign and HelloSign are now widely accepted at financial institutions. One of the primary reasons these programs increase security is that they lower the number of people who need to touch a sensitive document. Account applications and financial transactions typically include all kinds of personal information that identity thieves want to obtain. Electronic documents are more difficult to steal or copy.
5) Use Secure/Encrypted email when sending personal information
Do not send personal information such as account numbers, social security numbers, driver’s license numbers or password numbers in plain emails. If they must be sent, use an encrypted email format or ask for a secure portal to send the information to the recipient.
Here are three secure email programs with free plans:
Additionally, if you’ve ever received an email from a Nigerian prince looking for some help, you have experienced someone trying to trick you into revealing sensitive personal information. These tricks take many forms, so be suspicious when you get emails with strange stories, poor grammar or spelling. It might be a thief.
6) Remove yourself from www.whitepages.com
It is amazing how much the internet knows about you. If you haven’t already done this, go to www.whitepages.com and type in your name to see how much is there. If you are shocked at how accurate it is, take the following steps to remove yourself:
Find yourself on www.whitepages.com
Right click on VIEW DETAILS and COPY LINK ADDRESS
Go to the Opt Out page here:
Follow the website directions for opting out
There are other sites that sell similar information, but this one is obvious and easy to use. Take yourself out of it.
7) Check that your internet access point has a firewall
Most modern modems come with a simple firewall built into the access device, but you should at least check that you have one. Basic internet firewalls are now available for ~$100, so if you don’t have one already built into your internet access point, consider getting one.
8) Put a password or pin on your phone and PC
So simple. Don’t make it easy for those who take your phone or laptop. Lock those devices down.
9) Put a password on your home wifi
You probably already have this covered, but if not, put a password on you home wifi. Do not let outsiders access your network traffic.
10)Check your PC’s firewall and antivirus settings
These should always be turned on.
This essay is not an endorsement of any software program, nor a guarantee that following these steps will prevent a cyber-security problem. They are some common-sense guidelines and suggestions to help with your personal internet safety.
Robert Lloyd, CFA® is President and Chief Investment Officer of Lloyds Intrepid Wealth Management, and author of the book CENTRAL MARKETS. Since 1994, he has held positions as a trader, analyst, portfolio manager, and wealth manager while working at Invesco, CCM Opportunistic Advisors, and Merrill Lynch. In another life, he served 8 years in the U.S. Navy as a Naval Flight Officer flying in the S-3B Viking. For a complete resumé, visit his profile at LinkedIn.
Lloyd holds a BBA from the University of Notre Dame and an MBA from the University of Chicago.
Lloyd is a Chartered Financial Analyst.
Lloyds Intrepid LLC is doing business as Lloyds Intrepid Wealth Management. Lloyds Intrepid LLC offers investment advisory services in the State of Texas where registered and in other jurisdictions where exempted. Registration does not imply a certain level of skill or training. Lloyds Intrepid LLC and its advisers do not provide legal, tax or accounting advice. Lloyds Intrepid LLC formulates retirement plans, investment strategies, portfolio construction and investment due diligence for clients with signed investment advisory agreements with us. The information contained herein has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but the accuracy of the information cannot be guaranteed. All opinions and outlooks are subject to change.
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