Happy new year! Now that 2014 is upon us, many people are thinking of New Year’s resolutions and goals for the year ahead. Two of the most popular are dieting and exercise. Both of those are very noble goals, but I have a suggestion for a resolution that is easier than weight loss and could save you not only thousands of dollars, but countless hours and a lot of stress! To top it off, this resolution doesn’t require daily commitment – just a small amount of time, a few times a year. Does that sound good?
Here it is …
Change your passwords. Change your passwords on your bank accounts, credit cards, email accounts – anything you log into. Yes, all of them. (Don’t panic quite yet; there’s information to help you, if you read down farther)
- Because most sites, including banks and healthcare, do not require even yearly password changes.
- Because people tend to use the same password for multiple accounts.
- Because most people use easy to remember passwords instead of complex, hard to guess passwords.
- Because identity theft is still on the rise despite efforts of both the public and private security sectors to protect people.
- Because Internet fraud (including the black-market sale of social security numbers, user IDs, passwords and account numbers) is a world-wide multi-BILLION dollar business, and the trends are only increasing.
But if you are not using the same easy password for everything, how will you be able to remember unique complex passwords for each of your accounts? The simple answer is, you don’t. There are awesome programs out there that will keep track of all of your user IDs, passwords, and security questions. Many of them are low-cost or free. After installation, you add in the information for each of your accounts, and secure the program with a password – then you only have to remember one password, the one for your password vault. Google “password vault” for a list of options. Here is a quick review of some of them: http://www.snapfiles.com/freeware/security/fwpass.html. I have a password vault on my computer and on my phone, so that no matter where I am I can look up my passwords. (I also have the vaults synchronized on a secure drive in the cloud, but we’ll talk about that another time!)
Now it’s time to commit. Say, “I, [insert your name here] will make 2014 the year that I change all of my passwords.” It’s best if you change passwords at least every 90 days (or quarterly) but even getting them all changed once is a start.
One last note: If you think you have been the victim of identity theft, or would like more information about Internet scams, the Federal Trade Commission has help and guidance for you at http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/