Are your passwords protecting you?

Are your passwords really protecting you? For the vast majority of account takeovers, the fraudster will need to have gained specific information about you, such as your online log in and password.

On average, Brits have 19 online accounts each, with an average of seven different passwords. However, one in 10 of us never changes their online passwords and one in 20 uses the same passwords for all of their online accounts, many of which are inactive (social networks (26%), email (18%), retail accounts (21%) yet still potentially accessible to fraudsters.*

Take a look at our tips below to make sure that your passwords are working to protect your ID.

1.       Don’t reveal too much on social networking sites – Fraudsters can use seemingly inconsequential personal details like date of birth, age, maiden names or even your pets’ names to identify possible PINs or private passwords.  Think about how much information you really need to share on social media.

2.       Keep pins and passwords private – Memorise details rather than noting them down and never give account details to anyone else. Use different passwords for different accounts (social and financial ones too) and try to avoid names that can easily be guessed – for extra security, mix upper and lower cases and numbers.

3.       Use strong passwords with more than 8 characters (ideally 10-12), and avoid using words from the dictionary. Use two-factor authentication where possible and log out when finished. Tempting as it might be, don’t use your birthday or pet’s name.  These are easy to work out. Also, shred paper financial documentation after use as it is likely to contain data like your full name, address and much more.

4.       Be smart with your smartphone – Be careful what information you have stored on your phone – including emails that can be accessed without a password. Think about what you’re looking at online if accessed via open, public Wi-Fi hotspots, particularly online banking. It’s best to do key tasks such as that at home, using a secure home network.

5.       Don’t click if you’re not sure – If you receive an email you’re suspicious of, contact the relevant organisation and don’t give out personal details. Your bank, credit card provider and any reputable business will never ask for confirmation of details by email.

CreditExpert members can get unlimited views of your Experian credit report, which shows credit activity in your name so you can spot potentially fraudulent activity. It’s best to tell the police, your bank, credit card issuers and anybody else who might be affected if you suffer identity theft, as then it will be on record – and any organisations the fraudsters may approach can be alerted to it.

If you think you have become a victim of identity fraud, notify the police, contact your bank and check your credit report. Experian’s Victims of Fraud service is also available free to fraud victims, and has a dedicated team to give expert advice and support tailored to particular circumstances.

* Independent consumer research conducted between 17/10/2013 and 21/10/2013 by Opinion Matters on behalf of Experian, based on a sample of 2042 UK adults.

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