With the huge issue of identity theft, there are a number of things you can do to protect yourself and your family. Surprisingly, you can add a significant level of protection for free, you just need to spend a little time getting it done.

For those of you just looking to have a checklist – I’ve provided that first. But, if you want to dig in, find more detail below.

 

The Basics Checklist (all free, except for the Anti-Virus):

  1. Get a password manager – we recommend LastPass (the personal edition is free).
  2. Disable browser (IE, Edge, Chrome, Firefox) built-in password managers and delete stored passwords.
  3. Disable or remove browser extensions.
  4. Use different passwords for EVERY site – the password manager will help you get this done.
  5. Use Two-Factor-Authentication (2FA) for these sites (and implement in this order):
    1. Email – Because is they compromise your email; they WILL get everything else.
    2. Banking/Financial
    3. Credit/Debit Cards
    4. Social Media
    5. Shopping (especially accounts that have a Credit/Debit card stored)
    6. Services (like Uber)
  6. Current Anti-Virus on all computers (including laptops). NO free solutions. We recommend: Webroot, McAfee & Norton (in that order)
  7. Install Ad-Blocker in your browser. We strongly recommend: uBlock Origin
  8. Credit freeze on all 3 major credit bureaus – identity theft protection companies cannot do this for you:
    1. Equifax
    2. Experian
    3. TransUnion
  9. Check all your financial accounts and credit card statements each month for errors or suspicious activity.
  10. Monitor your physical mail for theft:
    1. Incoming Protection
    2. Outgoing Protection: Don’t send letters with checks or significant personal info using your personal mailbox.
  11. Turn on additional authentication question with financial vendors (like pin needed when calling it) so someone can’t pretend to be you on the phone.
  12. Review email Links BEFORE clicking on them. If you get a fraud alert or password change request – assume it bad, call the vendor or logon to the website instead.
  13. Stop using Internet Explorer! Use Chrome, Firefox or the new Edge (released Jan 2020).
  14. Keep an eye on your home title
    • Many counties offer free notifications for changes to your home title
    • Periodically check with your county Recorder of Deeds for changes (often available online)

Better Protection Checklist (some cost): [Do this after you have completed the Basic Checklist]

  1. Identity Protect Service: Identity Guard, LifeLock, IdentityForce
  • Consider: Adding Home Title monitoring – often included in their higher end packages
  • Consider: Adding Dark Web monitoring – often included in their higher end packages
  1. Don’t use public Wi-Fi for financial activity or to make online purchases (assume someone is watching over your shoulder the entire time) without using a VPN service
  2. Shred financial records before throwing them away
  3. Don’t leave your credit, debit, or ATM card receipts behind
  4. Use Gmail or O365 for your personal email (with 2FA)
  5. Don’t over share personal info on social media – like vacation plans, birth dates, family info (like mother’s maiden name)
  6. Kids are a huge target – don’t forget to protect their info too!
  7. Keep an eye on statements from medical insurance providers – medical identity theft is a growing problem

Advanced Protection Checklist (some cost): [Do this after you have completed the Better Protection Checklist]

  1. Use Brave or Firefox (with Browser Privacy set to Strict) browsers
  2. Disable location tracking for all apps on your iPhone/Android (or at least restrict access to location data ONLY while the apps are running)
  3. Use a VPN for all computers and mobile devices – Recommended: ExpressVPN or TunnelBear
  4. Stop using WhatsApp
  5. Use the Signal app for secure texting
  6. Use DuckDuckGo.com for search (instead of Google)
  7. Use NoMoRobo.com to reduce spam callers – Free for Landlines, $1.99/mo for mobile

More Detail:

This is a constantly evolving field. Please feel free to reach out for more info or with any feedback and we’ll help/update as needed.

 

Bill Hogan is the Owner and President of Partners Plus. He has over 37 years of experience in the tech industry, specifically IT network consulting for small and medium-sized businesses. Bill has spoken at seminars all over the country and published his latest book in 2018. Partners Plus has been selected by PHL17 as the best Computer and IT Support Company in the greater Philadelphia area.