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Want To Protect Yourself Online? 5 Things You Need To Know

Good Enough Mother® - "Ask" Rene

 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:

My Boyfriend Always Sides With His Mother Over Me

Monday Morning Motivation: Kick The Door Down

Rene’s Rant: Do You Smell Anything




  1. Dave M

    March 16, 2012 at 4:05 pm

    We had our Ebay account hacked one day . . . and sold to Russia. At 4am my wife had some telekinetic ESP that told her she couldn’t sleep, logged on, and suddenly we were selling hundreds of fake burner cell phones, iphones, laptops, all of it. Our 4-star rating was diminishing.
    Ebay said they’d work on it, but didn’t help us stop people from harassing us because we didn’t send them the phone they thought they’d bought for that bargain of $25 bucks (I mean, c’mon, 25 bucks for an iPhone?! New!!! Really you pinheads?!!!) It took me over a year and a new account to get past it. Taught my wife what sites to trust, who not to “chat” with, all of that. Same thing, “locked” our wireless as well, which may be how they got it.

  2. Selene M. Olivaria

    March 16, 2012 at 4:06 pm

    Wow thank you so much, will definitely be on the look out!!! I live online as well!!! ok gotta go change some passwords now!!

  3. Mike McGinley

    March 16, 2012 at 6:45 pm

    Good thing you caught it!

  4. Ella Rucker

    March 16, 2012 at 9:34 pm

    I got hacked a couple of times, but it was so long ago they had to do it the old fashioned way…they stole the number straight from my credit card. Watch out how long they keep that sucker when you go to restaurants because all they need is your credit card number and the rest of the vital info on the card. Depending on the site they where they use the card, they might not even need all that information.

    I don’t read my statements. I watch my accounts on a daily basis. And oddly I still missed it. I went on a shopping spree the same time they did and didn’t notice their purchase.

    Don’t feel dismayed, Rene! It happens a lot out there. Glad you got it all straightened out!

  5. TechyDad

    March 18, 2012 at 11:08 pm

    I’ve had my identity stolen. A few years back, B called me in semi-panic because a credit card arrived at our house… a card we didn’t order. As I called the company and tried to navigate the hurdles they put in my way, I got more and more upset. (And I don’t get upset easily.)

    It seems that “I” ordered a credit card online with my name, address, SSN, DOB, and the wrong mother’s maiden name. Despite this last bit, it was approved. “I” then paid for rush delivery of the card and changed the address. Furthermore, before getting the card, “I” tried to take a $5,000 cash advance.

    My thieves’ mess up was ordering the rush delivery. The card got set out before the address change went through. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have known about it until the creditors were beating down my door because of all of the charges “I” had made.

    Now, our credit is frozen. Not a fraud alert, mind you. That can be easily bypassed. With frozen credit, you need to purposefully thaw it to open a new credit card, get a new loan, etc. It’s a pain and it’s not an absolute ID theft defense, but it means nobody can open a new line of credit in my name. Meanwhile, my personal information is still out there somewhere. I don’t know how it got out there, probably never will, and I’m always going to have to be on my guard.

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Combing the aisles at Target in search of the best deal on Cheerios, it hit Rene Syler like the stench of a dirty diaper on a hot summer’s day. Not only is perfection overrated its utterly impossible! Suddenly empowered, she figuratively donned her cape, scooped up another taco kit for dinner and Good Enough Mother was born.

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