Your Bad Online Habits Are Inviting Identity Thieves In

article by Maria Perinic
May 14, 2019

Identity theft is an issue which most people know about, but still, don’t believe it will affect them. This cannot be further from the truth. In fact, the year 2017 saw US citizens lose as much as $16.8 billion to identity theft. That means this could easily happen to you as well.

So, how do they do it? There are various ways in which fraudsters can get a hold of your identity and use it for their own financial benefit. The problem is that a lot of us leave a trail of information which makes identity theft pretty easy for someone who knows what they’re looking for. Getting their hands on your personal information like your name and birthdate, address as well as banking information means they are set to go.

The good news is that you can easily break these habits. The truth is you probably don’t even know you’re making these mistakes. All in all, it is best to take extra precautions because it’s easier to add stronger passwords than to watch your money and identity disappear down the drain.

Read on for the worst online habits you are probably making and stop them right now.

Your Password Hasn’t Changed Since You Started Using a Computer

This is a problem. We have so many online login details for various social media, email and banking accounts that it is quite impossible to keep up with them. Ah, but you have things covered because you have been using the same password for years now, decades even. Right? Unfortunately, your pet’s name isn’t going to keep your sensitive information safer any more than “password” or “123456”.

Here is a list of the world’s worst passwords making the rounds on the internet, so you can get a pretty good idea of what to avoid:

  • 123456
  • password
  • 12345678
  • qwerty
  • letmein
  • 1234567
  • football
  • iloveyou
  • admin
  • welcome
  • monkey
  • login
  • abc123
  • starwars
  • 123123
  • passw0rd
  • hello
  • master
  • whatever
  • trustno1

Although remembering all your passwords is pretty impossible, that really is no excuse for using such weak passwords, and reusing them for all your accounts. Think about it, if a hacker can successfully guess your password to one account, it will be a free-for-all with all the others.

So, what constitutes a bad password? You want to stay away from the number sequence (as above), as well as leaving out any personal information tying your life to your password. Your pet’s name or girlfriend’s name isn’t going to cut it either, nor is their birthdate. Why? All of this information is available on your social media accounts.

A rule of thumb is that single words make terrible passwords because there are tools out there which hackers use that can run through each and every word in the dictionary within a couple of seconds.

Make your password secure by using a long word, throwing in some uppercase and lowercase letters as well as numbers and symbols. This password should not relate to you at all. Stuck for ideas? Try using a phrase rather than a word. This will also help in protecting your password.

When you do forget your password, the internet is nice enough to throw you some personal questions so that you can get back into your account within minutes. The problem with these questions is that once again, a hacker will be able to find out the name of your favorite author, your mother’s maiden name and even where you got married just by taking some time to check out your social media pages.

The best solution is to lie through your teeth for the answers to your security questions. How will you ever remember the answers? Keep track of all your little white lies in a password manager and you will be set to go.

You Overshare On Social Media

This is such a common bad habit, that people do not even realize just how much information they are putting out there. Oversharing on your social media platform of choice is not just annoying to those who network with you online, but it can also be a very dangerous activity. Social media hackers take advantage of weak privacy settings, many of which most of us haven’t gone through, well, ever.

But in addition to that, you’re probably tagging yourself and your best mate in your local café in real time, or posting birthday photos and even childhood throwbacks. These are all hidden traps that hackers are just waiting for you to stumble upon so that they can do away with your most personal information.

You might be really excited about your upcoming vacation to the Bahamas, but please, keep this between you and your mother. The whole world knowing your travel plans and schedules cannot be a good thing.

Your personal information should remain personal. Only by limiting what you post online and checking your privacy settings, making them as tight as possible will you be able to keep hackers at bay.

You Pay Your Credit Card Bills and Don’t Check your Statements Regularly

It might sound a little strange, but paying your bills on time and being proud enough not to check your statements regularly (because you’re always on time) is actually a very bad habit. This is because failing to check your bank and credit card statements means that you are also failing to see clues indicating that your identity has been stolen.

Credit card theft is up there as one of the most common types of identity theft and although it will not prevent identity theft, it will help you catch it before too much damage has been done. Make sure to keep an eye out for any purchases you didn’t make or any lines of credit that were not requested by you.

You can pull a credit report every four months, but you can also use online tools such as Bankrate, where you can view your credit card report free of charge.

You Send Emails Containing Sensitive Information

If we had a dime for every Nigerian prince emailing for financial help, money would no longer be an issue. OK, so by now, you’re probably not likely to fall for that hunky Nigerian prince that is deathly in need of funding for some reason or another. Unfortunately, that isn’t the only way email scams work.

There are countless email scams circling at any one time. Actually, it’s quite impossible to keep track of them all. A common theme is that hackers get pretty savvy at pretending to be your banking agents, using fake emails and even 800 numbers to do so. One thing to remember is that your bank will never ask you for your sensitive and personal information over the phone, let alone the internet.

The fact of the matter is, they already have all of this information, so if someone is asking for your personal banking details over email, whether from your bank or anywhere else, do not give it to them. Chances are these people are not who they seem.

Additionally using messaging services that are not encrypted can also be very dangerous. Just because you have deleted messages from Facebook doesn’t mean they’re no longer there. This information can always be found and intercepted by skilled hackers. The same goes for your email and Slack accounts. Moral of the story is: do not send sensitive information via communication channels that aren’t encrypted.

You Aren’t Using a VPN

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) will be able to protect all your online activities in that it creates a secure tunnel through the internet between the website you are trying to access and your computer, laptop or smartphone. If you’re already using a proxy service, know that a VPN is unlike a proxy in that it doesn’t hide your IP address, but rather locates it to a completely different server, to a country of your choosing.

There are times that a VPN acts just as a security blanket for your online browsing and other times when a VPN is just an essential element of your online activity, like when you’re accessing your bank accounts or emails via a public WiFi connection.

So, what do you look for in a great VPN? The best VPNs will be able to give you the following:

  • Strong encryption
  • Easy setup
  • Trusted military-grade protection
  • Malware protection
  • Large amount of servers
  • No logs
  • Fantastic customer service

You should practice caution when choosing the right VPN for yourself, so you don’t fall into particular traps set up to get the information you are trying to keep safe. For example, you might be tempted to download a free VPN instead of paying a small subscription fee. This one mistake could cost you your most personal data. Often these so-called “free” VPN services feed on your data, and your information also gets sold to third parties.

Your best bet is to invest in a reputable VPN service, such as ExpressVPN. These guys have over 2,000 servers in almost 100 countries, ensuring that your internet experience is safe and secure, even if you do have bad online habits. Here are some more reasons why ExpressVPN is a great choice:

  • 256-bit encryption
  • Available on Windows, iOS, Mac, Android, and Linux
  • Instant set up and easy to use interface
  • Unrestricted access to Netflix
  • Connects to more than 90 countries
  • Fastest and most secure VPN
  • Works in China
  • 24/7 customer support
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
  • Multiple connections per account
  • Unlimited bandwidth

Delivering consistently on both security and speed is what makes ExpressVPN maintain the top spot in performance and reliability. Also, you may have heard that your device may slow down when using a VPN, but you can expect to stream your favorite shows and read emails without even noticing ExpressVPN is working.

If you want to surf the net with ease, sign up for ExpressVPN as the best VPN for Mac security, today! ExpressVPN also offers a special deal, get 3 months free and 49% savings with their annual subscription plan!

Want to find out more? Check out the full review here

The Bottom Line

If you have some bad online habits such as keeping the same password for years on end, it’s time for a change. These habits are easy traps that hackers just sit and wait for you to fall in so they can get a hold of your information. Sharing too much information online is yet another simple way that third parties can put two and two together, easily using your details to log in to your most private accounts. The worst thing is, you have given them all the answers.

By following these tips above, and breaking these bad online habits you will be a few steps closer to securing your personal data. The absolute safest tip that we can give you is to use a reputable and reliable VPN. Only then can you really be sure that nobody will be able to snoop on any of your personal information or run off with your identity because, with a VPN, you will always remain anonymous.