Keeping your private stuff private

Your privacy is getting more and more difficult to guard, thanks to the Internet. You lock your house, right? Not only to ward off thieves, but because your house is private, and you don’t want people in there without an invitation. Yet oftentimes, we compromise our privacy on the internet, and even in person, every day. Here are some ways to curtail privacy issues, and possibly prevent Identity Theft:

  • Be privacy-conscious; be aware that everywhere you go, everything you do, people are trying to harvest your information.
  • Stores do not require your zip code or address in order to buy from them; With just your zip code and your credit card swipe, they have your address… Which they can use however they want!
  • Many places that ask for your Social Security Number don’t need it. Your Doctor doesn’t need it, the Police don’t need it. Your employer obviously does, but if it’s not required, don’t give it.
  • Pay attention to your physical mail. If you don’t receive a bank or credit card statement when you expect it, it’s possible someone stole your mail… And now they have your credit card number. For the same reason read your credit card statement carefully and investigate any unfamiliar charges.
  • When you’re browsing the Internet, hold your mouse pointer on a link and the address the link goes to will appear in the bottom left of your browser window. You can see where the link goes before actually clicking on it.
  • Don’t run any Facebook apps if you value your privacy. Facebook is a privacy nightmare, anyway, and apps just make it worse.
  • Don’t allow kids, grand-kids, or guests access to your computer, tablet, or phone if you are logged onto any websites. You might wind up like this guy, whose daughter bought a car on eBay. If your kid wants a toy, get them a toy of their own, and don’t link it to your financial or email information.
  • Turn GPS off when you take pictures with your smartphone or “smart” camera. If your pictures are posted online, they will probably have that GPS data attached to them. Any stalker out there can figure out where you work, shop, live, where your kids go to school… You don’t want that.
  • Don’t post your travel plans on social networks… Burglars read Facebook too.
  • Have at least three separate passwords:

1. for your non-secure, non-confidential stuff (News, weather, etc.)
2. for your moderately secure stuff (email accounts)
3. for your highly secure stuff, and a different one for every account (your online bank accounts, eBay, PayPal, shopping, anything having to do with your money)

  • It’s best to have a separate password for every site you visit. Can’t remember all of them? Use a Password Manager such as Password Safe, which can even generate random passwords that not even you know, and save them securely.
  • You might also consider changing your highly secure passwords on a regular basis, maybe every few months.
  • Pay particular attention to your email password. Your email address can often be used to reset other passwords, so if your email is compromised, you’re toast.
  • No legitimate entity will ever ask you for a password via phone or email.

Further reading: Safe Web surfing, Safe emailing