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Reduce the risk of identity theft

Top 5 Tips for Stronger Passwords

Most people have about 100 passwords, according to a study by password management company NordPass. That’s a lot to remember. To save mental space, most people resort to easy-to-remember passwords like “123456,” “picture1,” and, of course, the word “password” itself. This might have been fine in the early stages of the internet, but cybercrime has grown into a multi-billion dollar industry, and weak, stolen, or default passwords are largely to blame.

To protect your personal data, start by creating secure passwords using a combination of several techniques:

  1. Go long
    Consider stringing together a few random words, a favorite quote, a poem or lyrics from a song. When a cybercriminal has more characters to guess the correct password, they’re exponentially less likely to zero in on the right one. And the more time they spend trying, the more likely they’ll give up and move onto someone else. For example, a 10-character password with symbols or numerals creates a safer password than a shorter, simpler one.
  2. Use a password manager
    A 2019 poll conducted by Google found that more than 50% of people reuse passwords across multiple, if not all, sites. Let’s say you reuse the same password for Gmail, Twitter and Amazon. If one of these platforms is breached, cybercriminals could have access to those accounts and all of your personal information tied to them. Once they’re in your account, they could switch up the passwords to make it difficult for you to regain access.Password management tools typically cost between $20 and $60 a year, and take on the responsibility of generating and remembering unique passwords for your online accounts.
  3. Change your passwords regularly
    If you do decide to go with a password manager, this next step is quite a bit easier. Change your passwords at least quarterly. This is especially important for financial accounts. The more sensitive your information is, the more often you should change your password. Once it is changed, do not use that password again.
  4. Avoid using personal information
    One method cyber thieves use to get into your accounts is to glean personal information about you from social media or other publicly available sites, and then simply guess your password. That could include birthdates, child or pet names, geographical information, and more. Try to avoid making personal information public.
  5. Don’t use common passwords
    The most common passwords are simple and super-easy to remember. They include 123456, 12345678, picture1, password, password1, welcome, iloveyou, qwerty and so on. These are easy to guess. Try to avoid a single word plus a single number constructions (like password1), and instead use nonsensical words or phrases interspersed with special characters and numbers.

These days, it’s also a good idea to be on the lookout for breaches at companies you have an account with. If a company sends an email about a breach, don’t ignore it. Change your password immediately and consider locking or freezing your credit.

Even with a strong password, the smartest way to help protect yourself is to sign up for a comprehensive identity protection provider like Complete ID that monitors your personal information, alerts you if something is amiss and offers important guidance if you become a victim.

For more cybersecurity best practices, visit our Identity Theft Education Center.

This article is provided for general guidance and information. It is not intended as, nor should it be construed to be, legal, financial or other professional advice. Please consult with your attorney or financial advisor to discuss any legal issues or financial issues involved with credit decisions.

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