As you're doing your last-minute online holiday shopping, here are my top four holiday tips to protect you from identity theft:
- Never pick a password based on any word found in a dictionary
- Choose a different password for each Web site or service
- If you notice any strange behavior, change your password immediately
- Use a virtual credit card number if possible
Virtual credit cards (or temporary credit cards) are provided by most card issuers. These provide one-time credit card numbers that reduce the chance of fraudulent charges if the merchant is compromised. These temporary credit cards protect your account against fraudulent charges, but do nothing to protect your personal information, including your chosen password.
These four rules not only apply to e-commerce accounts that may store your credit card information, but also to social media accounts. Remember: There is a no $50 damage limit on your credibility if your account is used by spammers.
There are a few great tools you can use to generate strong passwords and store them securely. One that I like and that's available for free is KeePass, an open source tool for secure password generation and handling. It's available for several platforms, including smart phones.
As always, be careful not to click on suspicious links you receive – not only through email but also via social media and instant messages!
Have a happy and safe holiday season,