It's your ID Protect it...

It's your identity. Developing your own personal online security measures.

Gone are the days of using your initials or birth date as a password for email, computer logins, or online accounts. With the ever growing problem of identity theft you need to be vigilant of your personal information, how it's being used, and how it may be misused if it falls into the wrong hands.

Step 1. Have at least two personal email addresses. It is important that these email accounts be from different providers and it is very important that NONE of your online accounts email or otherwise have the same password. If you have home internet access from your phone, or cable or satellite provider, these services usually come with an email address provided. In addition you should have at least one "online" email account that you can access from anywhere. Most people access these types of accounts with their Smartphone.

Step 2. Develop and use STRONG passwords. The best and cheapest way to increase your online security is with a STRONG password. Do not be tempted to use your dogs name. Everyone knows your dog's name including that repairman that fixed your garage door last month. My recommendation is that you use a combination of numbers, lower case letters, and upper case letters, with a total length on no less than 8 characters. If you must use words in your email, use words that you make up or create your own spelling. Any words that you use should NOT be words that point to any particular interest or come up in ordinary conversation. If you like to fish and you were born in 1963 DO NOT use bass1963 as your password. If you do you are asking for trouble. Above all create a password that you can and will remember WITHOUT IT WRITING DOWN.

Step 3. Security phrases. A lot of companies are implementing security phrases when conducting online or phone business with people because one of the things you NEVER DO is tell anyone your password, either on the phone, in an email or a text message. Whether or not you make the initial call or get a call from anyone, never give your password to anyone. Any such company that would ask for your password has "MAJOR SECURITY FLAWS" and you should immediately reconsider doing any business with that company. Security phrases are another matter. They are usually generic questions that most everyone has an answer to. The typical samples are…Who was your 1st grade teacher? What is your favorite pets' name? These are questions that a lot of people might know the answer to, but probably not the guy that stole your VISA statement out of your mailbox this morning. Security phrases are just another step to protect you.

Step 4. Be mindful of what is in your wallet or purse. Put your social security card in a fireproof safe, not in your wallet. Don't carry 10 credit cards, one or two is all you need for daily use. If you carry a master password list in your wallet, then go back and read step 2. What else is floating around in your wallet or purse that could compromise your assets if lost or stolen? PIN numbers? Home Security access code? The combination to your wall safe? It is a very bad idea to "carry around" this kind of information.

Step 5. The one card. Have one credit card that you use for your online transactions. If an online store gets compromised and your information gets out, you have one account to close, and one security breach to deal with. Do not use this online card for non-online transactions. It's easier to track down the source of the security flaw this way.

Step 6. Nix the DEBIT Card. In my opinion you should NEVER use a bank issue DEBIT card for any online purchases. The protection mechanisms that most credit companies (MC & VISA) provide against fraud and theft may not be there in a bank issued DEBIT card. If you have no other option because you cannot get a credit card, please check with you financial institutions policies concerning fraudulent use before using your DEBIT card online.

Step 7. Get a shredder. Get a paper shredder and make a habit of using it. If you have a lot of old statements lying around either consider a heavy duty shredder or inquire about your company policy concerning shredding personal documents in the company paper shredder. If they do not allow this then look into a professional bonded secure shredding service to help you catch up on your backlog. Then buy a shredder. Remember to follow all local, state, and federal rules regarding paperwork retention for tax purposes.

Step 8. Credit Audits. Make a habit on auditing your credit history at least once a year. If conduct a large amount of online business, consider audits once per quarter. A professional accounting firm can help you with this as part of your yearly tax preparation.

Step 9. One card for reoccurring billing. This is actually a repeat step of 5 above. If you have monthly reoccurring changes billed to a credit card, consider using one card for all these type of transactions. Gym memberships, AAA, and car insurance are typical reoccurring charges.

Step 10. Browser security. Computers are cheap. If you are going to order stuff and pay bills online make sure you have a clean secure system to work from. In most cases this should NOT be the family computer.

Do you really what to pay your bills on the same PC your son plays internet based computer games on? I didn't think so. Gaming PC's are targets for internet hackers. Every application that has internet access is another potential security hole for some to try and get just enough information to empty your bank account. You don't need the latest and greatest to pay your bills online but you do need a clean, secure, computer. Get a decent laptop with an updated browser, current anti-virus and malware protection to do your internet business on.

Keep it clean; keep the security patches updated, and keep it under the bed when you're not using it for business. To be extra safe, plug into your router instead of using wireless when doing business online and avoid public hotspots/wifi for all transactions.

Use the family PC for entertainment and social networking, not paying bills.

Step 11. Public Computers. I'll be a cold day I hell before I put in my VISA card info on a public computer. Even if the establishment has sound policies, there are crooks out there looking for an easy score. Key logging programs can capture data and send it to remote servers in an instant. Before using public computers inquire with the establishment about security policies, and other efforts to keep your information safe.