Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Security in the new year

Most people, myself included, seem to want to do some housekeeping, literal or figurative, in the New Year or for springtime. Here are a few things to add to that list:

Take precautions against a hacked Google account. Google accounts are notoriously difficult to get back if they get hacked, but here are some things you can do now to make reclaiming that account easier if it happens. I just did this for my accounts.

Clean out your wallet. Please don't carry your social security card around with you! Leave it in a safe place at home unless for some reason you're taking it in on your first day at work. Take out any credit cards or debit cards you don't use frequently and slim down by tossing out reward or loyalty card programs you don't use, or use a program like Just One Club Card to get all those bar codes on one card. Put in a photo of a kid or pet for supposed better luck getting the wallet back if it's stolen. Slip some emergency cash in a never-used part of your wallet for cab fare out of a dangerous situation or something along those lines (a sale is not an emergency).

Photocopy the front and back of all your credit cards so that in case your wallet is stolen, you'll have the phone number and full card number to report it stolen. Obviously, keep this paper in a safe place. I'm overdue to update mine, so I'm going to do that this week.

Get your free credit report at www.annualcreditreport.com.  Not that other site. I get mine on a staggered basis--one in April, one in September, one in January. If I see something unexpected, I'll pull the other two, but that hasn't happened since I started doing it like this.

Update the virus protection on your computer. Delete accounts you don't use anymore--old email addresses, old social networking or dating site profiles. There's a LOT of information hanging around on some of those sites. Take a look at Facebook's new privacy settings and set your profile as private as possible.

Google your name and commonly used screennames every once in a while. When you apply for a job, someone will do this, so you should know what they see.

Change your passwords and security question answers. You should have a password system--never, ever use your email password for anything else, and keep your Facebook password separate from your banking password, for example. Some people use the same answer for all the secret questions everywhere, which is ingenious to me--I can't ever remember whether I abbreviated the name of my high school or capitalized my best friend's first and last name. Plus identity theft is usually committed by someone who knows you, and most of those questions are pretty easy to answer by someone who knows you pretty well. Some sites won't allow you to make the answer to all those questions "asparagus", but many will.

I  haven't gotten to everything on this list yet this year, but I will. Next up is deleting some old site profiles and changing my passwords, as well as photocopying my cards.


  1. Great tips! I'd never thought of the security question idea--they always did seem really obvious. I guess I'll start answering "meringue" all the time, haha!

    I liked the article about getting your google account back, and was pleased to see that I could answer all those question offhand without access to my account. Hopefully it'll never be an issue.

  2. I know my credit card number by heart. LOL.

    I'm actually due to get our credit reports - thanks for the reminder! And I should try to set up some sort of system with my passwords - just don't know quite what.

    And I google myself quite frequently... i'm in the media industry, so that's a given.

  3. Thank you for the great reminder! The Google article was great; ff anything, I think I over-value the security of email and Facebook. I never carry my debit cards -- there have been a fair number of muggings around my college lately, and I don't want to be taken to an ATM and forced to drain my account.

    My favorite security question is library card number, since that is much less easy-to-know, and I have mine memorized since I usually forget my card!


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