I admit it up front. This is an “eat your vegetables” letter.
Hacking and identity theft are real threats. None of us can eliminate the risk entirely. But we can take a few simple steps to minimize the chance of spending the estimated 40 hours required to “fix” the problem afterwards.
Here are three suggestions:
- Today, change the passwords on all your most important accounts (banks, credit cards, email accounts, etc.). You may have 50 or more passwords, but maybe only 5-10 are “sensitive”. Put a recurring note in your calendar to change your passwords again in six months. If you prefer, there are “password managers” that will do this for you, so you only need to remember one password, not 50.
- Starting today, shred (don’t throw away) any trash that identifies you. If you receive as many credit card solicitations and we do, you’ll have plenty of confetti for New Year’s Eve.
- Consider freezing your credit. For a small charge (free in some states), you can freeze your credit with each of the three major credit reporting bureaus. That way, if someone tries to open a credit card in your name, they will almost surely be rejected.
I know, I know. This is all obvious. You’ve heard it a hundred times. You probably don’t use “qwerty”, “123456” or “password” for your sensitive passwords anyway. But if I coax just ten readers to take action because of this letter, I’ve done a bit of good.