Reducing Your Risk of Identity Theft One Password at a Time

Passwords and Identity Theft

Use separate passwords -- it's a warning that is uttered so often that many of us become immune to the wisdom and choose to ignore it altogether. Well, I had a neighbor who did just that. He ignored the good identity theft advice I have to offer him, and he nearly paid big time.

When Good Advice Goes Unheeded

My neighbor Ed and I go way back. We've lived next door to each other for nearly 19 years. He's a practical sort of fellow, and he always offers me the best advice when I'm outside planting flowers because he works in a nursery. I value his input so much, and I try to return his helpful advice by providing him with a lot of what I learned in my work against battling identity theft. This time, though, he didn't listen.

One Password Should Not Cover It All

My neighbor loves simplicity. He figures if he uses just one password to access all his online accounts and email, then he'll never be shut out from them. Let's face it; it's difficult to remember dozens of separate passwords. But that's the reality of being technologically dependent.

Ed logged into his PayPal account one day only to discover he had restricted access. It turns out an identity thief tried to add a checking account to Ed's PayPal account for the purpose of transferring funds under Ed's name.

Luckily, no damage was done, but this potential nightmare could have been avoided if only Ed had used a different PayPal password then he does for the email account linked to his PayPal account.

Reduce Your Risk of Identity Theft

Ed has since learned his lesson, but I suspect there are at least a few readers out there who make this same mistake every day. It's an honest mistake. Our desire for keeping things simple can radically increase our risk of identity theft.

Tips for Managing More Than a Dozen Passwords

Here's what I recommend. Take an inventory of your passwords for every email and online account. Change any duplicate passwords. Make each password a unique combination of letters and numbers, and
write down this information in a safe place (not in a computer file
unless it's encrypted). This will go a long way to reducing your risk of identity theft.

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