The week of March 1-7th has been designated by the federal government as National Consumer Protection Week.  During this week people are encouraged to learn more about how to protect themselves from fraud, scams and identity theft, which are topics we discuss here at every day of the year.  Fraud, scams and identity theft can harm you in a multitude of ways and with the plethora of data breaches at major companies, government agencies and other institutions, regardless of how careful you are about protecting yourself from identity theft, you are only as safe as the entity with the weakest security that has your personal information.  In addition, recent studies have indicated that the increase in data breaches and other cybercrimes has had a significant effect on the mental health of us all with many people feeling helpless and depressed about how vulnerable we are to fraud, cybercrime, identity theft and scams.  However, the fact that you are reading indicates that you are taking matters into your own hands and continuing to learn about how to recognize the threat of identity theft, scams and cybercrime as well as learning how to protect yourself.  I urge you to let your friends and family know about and encourage them to subscribe to our daily emails of the Scam of the day (it is free).  So good luck this week and throughout the year.  After all, we are all in this together.


I have literally provided thousands of tips over the years about how to protect yourself from identity theft, scams, fraud and cybercrime. but here are six tips that are easy for everyone to follow to help protect yourself.

  1.  Use complex, unique passwords for all of your online accounts so that in the event that there is a data breach and the password for one of your accounts becomes compromised, all of your accounts will not become vulnerable to being hacked.  Creating and remembering strong, unique passwords for each of your accounts is not as difficult as it may appear.  You can start with a strong base password constructed from a phrase, such as IDon’tLikePasswords. Add a few symbols like !!! and then adapt it for each account you have so that you will have a secure and easy to remember password for each of your online accounts.   Thus, your Amazon password could be IDon’tLikePasswords!!!AMA.
  2. Whenever possible use dual factor authentication for your accounts so that when you attempt to log in, a one-time code will be sent to your cell phone to insert in order to get access to your account.  For convenience sake you can set up dual factor authentication so that it is only required if you are logging in from a different computer or device than you normally use.
  3. An easy solution to the problem of the answers to knowledge based authentication security questions being too readily available on the Internet is to make the answer to your security question nonsensical. For instance, if your security question is what is your mother’s maiden name, you can pick something ridiculous, such as “firetruck” as the answer. No hacker will ever be able to find the answer to this security question online and it is so silly that you will remember it.
  4. With your email address commonly known by many scammers, you can expect to receive more and more phishing and more dangerous, specifically targeted spear phishing emails that attempt to lure you into clicking on links containing malware or try to convince you to provide personal information that can be used to make you a victim of identity theft.  Never click on links or provide personal information in response to an email or text message unless you are absolutely sure that the email or text message is legitimate.
  5. Don’t use public Wifi, but rather use a Virtual Private Network (VPN).
  6. Freeze your credit at each of the three major credit reporting bureaus and freeze the credit reports of your minor children as well.

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