Pull up and chair and let my goof be your gain….
Last week, you pulled out your smart phone to check your bank balance while you were on the run. Maybe you sat at that cute little coffee shop in your neighborhood to write, taking advantage of their free Wi-Fi. Maybe you got a new router for your home’s Wi-Fi and forgot to password protect it. Oh you have time to do that.. you can do it later. Right? What’s the harm? Um…
Okay take a moment out of your busy day to learn something at the feet of Good Enough Mother. This won’t take more than a few minutes, will be relatively painless and you’ll thank me later.
Early this morning I got an email from PayPal saying my account had been limited. Dammit! Not again. This was about the third time they had asked me to verify my information for them and frankly it was getting old.
But this email from them was different; it said I had added an email address to my account and to contact them right away if I had not done that. Um, yeah I had not done that. So when I went to log in, I couldn’t! The password had been changed! And I didn’t do it!
Now I’m about 30 seconds from full-on panic. The nice gentleman on the other end of the line locked down my account and assured me we would get it taken care of. No sooner had he said that, I got an email from Google. You guessed it; they were notifying me to tell me they had received my request to change my password and if it had not come from me, to contact them. WHOA!
“I’LL CALL YOU BACK!” I screamed at the PayPal guy and hung up. Frantically I began punching the keys on my laptop, trying to get into my Gmail account. Well, duh! I couldn’t because the password had been changed.
Now a few days before this, I saw a couple of suspicious charges on my American Express card and my bank debit card. I notified them each and had the charges disputed and the accounts closed with new numbers assigned to me.
Oh man! What a tremendous pain but more than that, it was so scary! I live my life online. I’m the person who tells everyone else not to worry and yet here I was almost a victim! So, because I love you, I’m going to share with you what I learned so you don’t make the same mistakes. In order to do that I am going to have to expose my own damn stupidity but am willing to take one for the team.
Okay so here are 5 things you need to do RIGHT NOW to keep yourself safe online and protect your identity.
PROTECT YOUR WI-FI: UGH: Post a big fat LOSER and a target on my forehead. A few months back we changed up our Wi-Fi at home. We did not take the extra step of protecting it with a password. Why? Who the hell knows? I thought it wasn’t that important because heck, my neighbors all have their own. Besides, what difference does it make if they use my Wi-Fi to access games and the like. Umm…..
WHAT.THE.HELL.IS.WRONG.WITH.YOU.RENE??? Here’s why this is a problem. I found out from my conversation with the nice people at PayPal that there is software that bad guys can use to skim passwords off your Wi-Fi from as far as a mile away! If you’re accessing your financial institutions from your home with unprotected Wi-Fi, well, you see where I’m going with this, don’t you?
BE CAREFUL USING A SMARTPHONE FOR BANKING: Experts say it’s still safe, if you use a big dose of common sense. Trusting the bank authorized apps is better than accessing the bank over public Wi-Fi. Another DUH for me; I never thought twice about punching in www….
DON’T USE THE SAME PASSWORD FOR EVERYTHING. Come on people! And when I say “people” I am referring to myself. Dammit I’m old; I cannot be expected to remember every password for every single device, website, thing-a-ma-bob I use. Yes, that’s exactly what I need to do. Using the same password for everything, though easy, is just dumb. Think about it; once the bad guys have that, you’re as exposed as a sinner in church. So I use an app called mSecure to store the passwords in one place, unlocked by a master password. And while we’re on the topic of passwords, the nice lady at PayPal also told me not to use the same password for banking as for social media. Important tip.
WATCH WHAT YOU DO ON FREE WI-FI: Remember that little note above about protecting your home’s Wi-Fi? Well, if you’re out using public Wi-Fi you could also be at risk. Might be a good idea to do your Internet banking from home just to be safe. Oh and one more tip from the PayPal gal; don’t download anything connected to a credit card (like download music) from public Wi-Fi.
CHECK YOUR STATEMENTS: Do you do this? Or do you skip a month and think, no harm, no foul? If you do this already you get a gold star. If you do it sporadically, you go to the time out corner to think about it. If you don’t do this at all, time for a rap across the knuckles.
Now I know some of you will read this and want to put all your money in a sock and bury it in the backyard; that’s not the intention of this post. I just want you to think about where and how you expose yourself online. You know what they say about an ounce of prevention.
Confession time.. how many of you are like me? Have you ever fallen victim to identity theft? After reading this post, what will you do today to keep yourself and your family safe?
More from GEM: