How to Protect Yourself Online

By Jim Murphy

Take steps to preserve your privacy

Too many of us do things online we would never do in person. If someone came up to you on the street and said, “Please give me your credit card number”  – would you do it? Probably not. But if someone sends you a phony email or texts you and says they’ll give you $50 for completing a survey with your account number or credit card number included, many of us will  provide it.

Enjoy the internet … but use common sense

Neither your bank, nor IRS nor your credit card company is ever going to call, email you or send you a letter asking for your account info, your Social Security Number or your credit card number. They already have it. Online or offline, the bottom line is:  If it looks to be too good to be true, it probably is.

1. Create passwords the easy way

If your current online passwords are 12345, password, querty or football, you are probably going to get hacked. These are among the top 10 worst passwords of the last five years.

A better idea: Develop a system to create passwords and use a different one for every site that requires a password.

Use the initial letters of lines to a song or movie or book title you like and add some extra characters. For example, if you like the country song “Smokey Mountain Rain,” one line is: “Smokey mountain rain, I’ll keep on searchin’. ” You can take the first letters of those words SMRIKOS add a date, a capital letter and symbols & and * and you have an instant password: SMIKOS&*Jm16.

Experts will say you need more than 12 characters.  But if you use a recipe or system like this example, and include letters, capitals and symbols, your password will be much stronger than most. Just put the password somewhere only you can find it.

2. Be careful when using public Wi-Fi

Public Wi-Fi makes it easy to stay connected when you’re traveling.But these spots are not secure and easily hacked.

Best Advice: Turn on your firewall, and do not do any shopping, banking or financial transactions on a public Wi-Fi spot (including your hotel).

Why? Some years ago, popular computer guru David Pogue, then with the New York Times, met a technical consultant in a Manhattan coffee shop to see exactly what info could be gathered from Wi-Fi. And he was stunned.

Within seconds after David fired up his laptop, the consultant turned around his own screen so David could see it. Using a “sniffing” device, the guy had pulled up a copy of every email David had sent or received, the websites he visited and the graphics from each site. Unless you know enough to take extra technical precautions, be aware that someone could be viewing anything you send or receive at a public Wi-Fi spot. And act accordingly.


Jim Murphy is a direct marketing copywriter who has run his own
consulting business since 2004. For nine years, he wrote and
edited “Choices,” an award-winning credit union magazine
with a circulation of 80,000. He also is a certified member of the
Association of Philadelphia Tour Guides.

Any comments made are Jim’s opinion, and not necessarily
those of the Old Pine Community Center.

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