identity theft, protection, hacker, identity fraud, steal your identity

Updated on 12/20/21 to include  more financial tips. They can be found at the bottom of The Basics Checklist!

In just the last five years, all of us can think of multiple examples of hackers wreaking havoc on society. It’s a well-known reality by now, not just the plot of the latest sci-fi movie. With the capability to store our entire businesses and lives, practically, in the digital sphere, it’s more important than ever to protect your identity.

Thankfully, there’s a good bit of work you can do without IT support to help minimize risks.

The Basics Checklist

(Majority of these are free.)

  • Get a password manager that isn’t your browser’s built-in one. We recommend getting LastPass (the personal edition is free) and saying “No,” every time your browser asks if you want to save your login credentials.
    • Why LastPass? It’s regularly audited by multiple independent 3rd parties and issues are fixed within hours. They will even prompt the alteration of passwords if they find sites you're a part of were hacked.
    • Saying no to your browser's password manager keeps your logins from being compromised. This is an easy target because hackers know how frequently the service is utilized.
    • Via your password manager, make sure to have a different password for every single login. LastPass can even generate strong passwords for you!
    • If creating your own passwords, use this system.
    • When working with Partners Plus, a password manager is a part of our outsourced IT Security Package!
  • Use Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) for sites requiring a login and turn on additional authentication questions, particularly for financial vendors. That way there are multiple near-impossible hurdles for hackers to jump over.
    • For the former, we recommend Google Authenticator.
    • We especially recommend 2FA for your email. Your email login is the front door to all your data, so this extra step will be a long-term savior.
  • Install Anti-Virus to your computer and Ad-Blocker to your browser.
    • For Anti-Virus, we recommend Webroot, McAfee or Norton. This computer support is offered to our clients at Partners Plus.
    • For Ad-Blocker, we recommend uBlock Origin.
  • Disable or remove browser extensions.
  • Be meticulous: Manually review email links before clicking on them. Check all your financial accounts and statements each month for incorrect or suspicious activity. Monitor your physical mail for theft. Keep an eye on your home title.
    • Physical mail can feature bank, card, medical and personal.
  • Whether you're routinely applying for credit or not, it's now simpler to freeze/unfreeze your credit worthiness. Therefore, you should go ahead and do so. Put a freeze on your credit for all four major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, TransUnion and Innovis). (Conveniently, the first three all offer a 10-day unlock with automatic relock. This works for credit freeze and credit lock.) That way, no bad guys can open a credit account under your name and run up massive charges.
    • Although Innovis is an upstart bureau, you still want to place a freeze there too because thieves may take aim at that one, knowing it's lesser known and therefore less likely to be frozen.
  • If you use a debit card(s), take advantage of You can create virtual payment cards for one-time purchases, subscriptions, and control the card's settings. For example, you could set a Spend Limit on Netflix so they can never double charge you or charge you more without you knowing.
    • This is important because, compared to credit cards, you take the hit when your debit card is taken advantage of!
  • As much as you can, use PayPal for online shopping--especially for those random shops you don't trust. They encrypt your card info, protecting you from fraud.

Want to reduce risk even more? Here's your next steps...

  • Get an identity protection service.
    • We recommend Identity Guard, LifeLock and IdentityForce.
  • Consider adding Home Title monitoring and DarkWeb monitoring.
    • As a IT support company, we offer DarkWeb monitoring for our clients.
  • Don’t use public Wi-Fi for anything involving payment or bank information.
  • Don’t overshare personal information about you or family members on social media, in particular. That includes your passwords!
  • Shred financial records before throwing them away and don’t leave bank receipts behind.
  • Use Gmail or Office365 for secure email usage.
    • One of our IT support services is 24/7 monitoring of your team's Office 365. We'll detect a threat before it has even infiltrated your system!
    • Additionally, we cover Office365 for data loss. Did you know Microsoft does not back up your email data? Well, we do!

Day-to-Day Advanced Investments…

  • Use Brave or Firefox browsers, with Browser Privacy set to Strict.
  • Disable location tracking for all apps (or at the least, only while the app is in use) and stop using WhatsApp! Why WhatsApp? Read here.
  • Use a VPN for all computers and mobile devices.
  • Use the Signal app for secure texting, instead of Google for searching, and to reduce spam calls.
    • The last site is $1.99/month for mobile.

PS: if your small business IT support is not highly encouraging/implementing the above practices, it may be time to look into IT support near you. With locations in the Wilmington and Philadelphia regions, we hope we're your next candidate. (:

headshot, owner, president, author, partners plus, IT company, IT services, SSD, recommendationBill Hogan is the Owner and President of Partners Plus. He has 40 years of experience in the technology services industry, specifically small business IT support. Bill has spoken at seminars all over the country about network management and published his latest book in 2018. Partners Plus was selected by PHL17 as the best Computer and Information Technology Support Company in the greater Philadelphia area in 2018.