You may think you’ve heard about all the ways cybercriminals are trying to take advantage of you. Even if you consider yourself a savvy consumer because you are getting smart by reading all my articles and taking proactive measures — cybercriminals are always coming up with new ways to take advantage of you. That’s why I’m constantly bringing you the latest information, including the top 8 tech disasters making it to the top of my threat list.
Top 8 digital mistakes you’re making
1. Password laziness
- Creating super simple passwords
- Repeatedly using the same password across different accounts
- Sharing passwords with others.
In the past, I have been guilty of being “lazy” when creating unique and complex passwords. With so many accounts online, it’s often easier to make one up that is slightly easier to remember. However, it puts you at risk because when one account gets compromised, all the accounts that used that same password are compromised. That’s a lot of compromises and a much bigger headache in the long run.
Create strong passwords and utilize a password manager.
First, check to see if your password has been hacked before you get the alert or suspicious sign-ins here. Have your passwords been hacked? Possibly, yes. Here’s how to check
- Create unique, alphanumeric passwords that are not easy to guess. Where possible, use symbols and punctuation to make it harder to guess
- Where and when possible, enable 2-step authentication: this is where every time you log in or log in from a device that the account doesn’t recognize, it will ask you to verify you’re the owner of the account by sending a code to a phone or email you’ve designated (NEVER SHARE verification codes)
- Create unique profiles when sharing an account with multiple people so they don’t have access to the master account as well as your login and password
- Stop sharing your passwords with others – or if you have a password manager, you can safely share passwords on a case-by-case basis
- Definitely consider using a password manager to securely store and generate complex passwords. It will help you to create unique and difficult-to-crack passwords that a hacker could never guess. Second, it also keeps track of all your passwords in one place and fills passwords in for you when you’re logging into an account so that you never have to remember them yourself. The fewer passwords you remember, the less likely you will be to reuse them for your accounts.
- What qualities should I look for in a password manager?
When it comes to choosing the best password manager for you, here are some of my top tips.
- Deploys secure
- Works seamlessly across all of your devices
- Creates unique complicated passwords that are different for every account
- Automatically populates login and password fields for apps and sites you revisit
- Has a browser extension for all browsers you use to automatically insert passwords for you
- Allows a failsafe in case the primary password is ever lost or forgotten
- Checks that your existing passwords remain safe and alerts you if ever compromised
- Uses two-factor authentication security
- Check out my best expert-reviewed password managers of 2023 by heading to CyberGuy.com/Passwords.
2. Clicking unsafe links
Opening texts and emails from unknown senders – even known senders can be dicey these days. Certainly, when I’m in a rush or clicking too quickly through texts or emails, I have accidentally clicked on a link from an unknown sender, which inevitably throws me into a state of panic. You do not want to find yourself in one of these oops! moments, trust me. Aside from slowing down so you don’t make those accidental mistakes, below are ways to prevent the issue, to begin with.
- Utilize spam filters or unknown sender features on your device.
- Make sure your email accounts have strong spam filters so you aren’t automatically receiving them in your inbox with the rest of your emails, which makes it more likely that you’ll open it or click a ‘bad’ link.
- Devices like the iPhone have automatic features built into your operating system that filters unknown sender’s text to a separate section of your phone. While not foolproof and depending on your carrier or the sender, unknown senders can send texts to the known sender’s section. It still lowers the risk and number of potentially malicious texts.
- You can also block unknown senders or repeated offenders by reporting it to your domain service provider or at least flag it to Google if you’re using Gmail, etc.
- Ensure you’ve got antivirus software running in the background so that even if you accidentally click the link, the program will kick in to limit the damage.
- See my expert review of the best antivirus protection for your Windows, Mac, Android & iOS devices by heading to CyberGuy.com/LockUpYourTech.
3. Using public Wi-Fi or internet connections
It’s tempting to use free, public Wi-Fi hotspots when you’re out and about and your reception is spotty. However, the convenience is not worth the risk. Hackers prey on people tapping into Wi-Fi networks in public places and quietly attack. Only later do you discover that a compromised phone is in your hand – and potentially major aspects of your digital life and security are also hacked. While the need to stay connected, especially while traveling, is high, the risk of being hacked when connecting to public Wi-Fi is even greater.
Utilize a VPN service.
Many sites are able to read your IP address and, depending on their privacy settings, may display the city from which you are corresponding. A VPN will disguise your IP address to show an alternate location.
For the best VPN software, see my expert review of the best VPNs for browsing the web privately on your Windows, Mac, Android and iOS devices by visiting CyberGuy.com/VPN.
4. Oversharing on social media or online
Most people who have spent any time online have overshared at some point. Whether you’ve deleted a post or put your account on private, some identifying data is available for cybercriminals to collect and use now or later.
Scrub social media, change settings, opt-out, and use removal service.
Scrub your social media accounts for any identifying information. Even your hometown can be showing your hand to cybercriminals. After all, how many banks use “What is your hometown?” as a security question?
Change your privacy settings, especially on Facebook, by reviewing these steps: Foolproof steps to help protect your Facebook account from hackers.
Opt-out of prescreened offers can help keep your info safe. The less paper floating around with your information, the safer you will be. Go to optoutprescreen.com to opt-out.
While no service promises to remove all your data from the internet, having a removal service is great if you want to constantly monitor and automate the process of removing your information from hundreds of sites continuously over a longer period of time.
5. Not checking your credit report or score
While ignorance may be bliss in other areas of life, your credit health is not. Not being aware of your current credit score or report means you can be vulnerable to identity theft and other forms of fraud. Keeping tabs on your score and reports can help you see if any accounts have been closed or opened in your name.
Access your credit score and pull credit reports.
You can pull your credit score from your credit card company (usually for free), or you can pay to find it through a variety of third-party companies.
You can pull your free annual credit reports from the 3 main bureaus – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion once a year.
Identity Theft protection companies can monitor personal information like your Home title, Social Security number, phone number, and email address and alert you if it is being sold on the dark web or being used to open an account. They can also assist you in freezing your bank and credit card accounts to prevent further unauthorized use by criminals. One of the best parts of using some services is that they might include identity theft insurance of up to 1 million dollars to cover losses and legal fees and a white glove fraud resolution team where a US-based case manager helps you recover any losses.
See my tips and best picks on how to protect yourself from identity theft by visiting CyberGuy.com/IdentityTheft.
6. Not reviewing bank & credit card statements
With so many purchases made on credit or debit cards, both on and offline, it is hard to keep track of all your transactions. But that’s what criminals are banking on (pun intended). They’re hoping you’re not paying attention to your transaction history long enough for them to make purchases on your dime or make changes to your account.
- Monitoring and protection
- Go through each statement regularly
- Set alerts with each bank or credit card so that you are notified when certain thresholds are met, so even if you’re not reviewing all your statements regularly, you can still know when something is amiss
- Utilize a fraud protection service like Identity Guard, as mentioned above, that allows you to set up transaction monitoring.
7. Not safeguarding your Social Security number
Some people still carry their social security cards in their wallets and provide them whenever requested. As outlined in my article, Top ways to safeguard your Social Security number, you should protect your Social Security number as it can upend your life if it gets into the wrong hands.
Opt out of using your social security number
In addition to putting your social security card in a safe place (like a physical safe), opt out of using your social security number in forms when possible.
Some fraud protection services like Identity Guard can help monitor activity that utilizes your social security number as well as track to see if it is being sold on the dark web.
8. Leaving your mail out & throwing it out flippantly
Between porch pirates and nosy neighbors or family, your mail can provide a lot of data that can be used against you, especially since many companies and governmental agencies send sensitive information about you and for you via snail mail.
Secure mail handling.
Pick up your mail in a timely fashion.
Put your mail on hold with the postal service if you’re out of town, as it can signal to thieves that your home is unoccupied and thus an open target.
If you are going to throw away your mail, especially the more sensitive items, be sure to shred it first and then discard.
Kurt’s key takeaways
We’ve all been guilty of at least one of these top digital mistakes. Or if any of these mistakes are new to you, this refresher will keep you safer. So, let’s learn from our blunders, stay informed, and keep navigating the digital world safely and with confidence.
Let me know which digital mistakes you’ve made, the consequences, and how you solved them by writing us at CyberGuy.com/Contact.
For more of my security alerts, subscribe to my free CyberGuy Report Newsletter by heading to CyberGuy.com/Newsletter.
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