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While technology seems to have made our lives easier, it has also made personal info easier to steal. According to The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), as many as nine million Americans have had their identities stolen each year.

The good news is that with some easy-to-adopt practices, you can outwit the outlaws, keeping you and your financials safer.


Power Up Your Passwords

Yes, it’s easy to remember birthdates, pet names and 12345. But those are also some of the easiest passwords to hack. A good password should be at least eight digits long and include numbers, symbols, and a mix of capital and lower-case letters. Avoid using the same password for several accounts, and don’t keep a list of your passwords on your computer; transfer them to a flash drive and store that in a secure place.

Load on the Layers

Ask your bank and credit card companies about the multi-layer security options they offer. These options may include authenticating your log-on with a randomly generated four-digit number sent to you via text confirming that you’re using a recognized device, or issuing alerts for transaction that include large amounts or overseas transfers.

Put Up Walls

With the sophisticated systems criminals use today, you may never know that your information, passwords or login details are being snatched—until it’s too late. That’s why an updated firewall, anti-virus and anti-spyware programs are essential to keep your details out of hacker’s hands.

Attention Online Shoppers

It’s fun, easy, and you don’t have to wait in line at a register. But beware—hackers could be waiting for you. Keep a separate card just for online purchases, and consider lowering the credit limit so if it does get stolen the thief can’t go crazy with your cash. Also, when they ask if you’d like to store your credit card information for future purchases, the answer is ‘no.’

Catch a “Phishing” Scam

You’ve probably gotten an e-mail like this in the past: one that looks like it’s from your bank or credit card company. It might seem innocent, but often hackers use these emails to “fish” for your personal details, or a pathway into your computer. If it asks you to verify things like passwords, account numbers or security details, delete it. If you think the request could be valid, don’t click on any links; instead, delete the e-mail and go directly to the bank or credit card site to see if any action is needed on your part.

Discourage the Divers

Not all threats come through your computer. Thieves will go “diving” through your trash, or dip into your mailbox, looking for receipts, credit offers, account statements and more—anything that might contain personal info. Invest in a crosscut shredder and feed it all those sensitive documents before disposing of them. In addition, you can reduce the number of pre-approved credit card offers you receive by calling 888-5OPT-OUT.