By Evan Kelly, Senior Communications Advisor for BBB serving Mainland BC
It really is easy to lose sight of. The “it” is the number of online accounts you have or signed up for. A study done in the UK recently found the average person had no fewer than 118 accounts, and by 2020 that number is expected to breach 200. Obviously, we don’t pay attention to all of them all of the time. We stick to the few most popular and engaging ones like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or even Weibo to name a few.
Personally, I have four active email accounts...I use two regularly for work and personal use. What’s going on with the other two? Not much really, I think my kids use one to post YouTube videos. Most people adopt that laissez-faire attitude and that’s not good. While these two paragraphs talk about a handful of accounts, many forget about the online banking/bill payment/reservation portals/Amazon/eBay/iTunes or Play Store/PayPal/Craigslist/Kijiji/games/parking/etc, accounts that get used less frequently. The point is, we have a lot more accounts with our personal and financial information tied to them than we often realize. Out of sight, out of mind right?
Better Business Bureau and its community partner Global Payments Canada realize the importance of updating your passwords at least once a year. Is it failsafe? No, but it’s better than doing nothing. Some security experts claim it’s not actually going to prevent your ID from being stolen, but that’s largely because of one issue. When people change their passwords, they don’t change them enough to make them stronger.
For example, let’s say your email password is the name of your dog (you should not do this by the way) so your password if ‘Fluffy.’ People tend to be lazy when changing it and it becomes ‘Fluffy1.’ This doesn’t really make the password stronger and less hackable.
BBB offers these few tips to make your passwords strong:
We upload a lot of information into social media and many people (and pets) are tagged there. This is just one reason why using names is a bad idea.
But how does one stay on top of changing passwords to numerous accounts?? Firstly you might want to consider closing any account you haven’t used on over a year. Chances are you’ve forgotten the password anyway! Oh, you keep them on the memo pad in your phone? Don’t. Phones are hackable too. Yes doing a survey of your online accounts is tedious, but doing it manually is really the only way.
Prioritize accounts that deal with money, credit cards, or bill payments. Second in line is email and social media. Lastly, any subscription sites you’ve signed up for and may have forgotten about. The ones you don’t use...delete. Don’t use the same password for all of your accounts. If a crook gets in one account, they’ll get in all of them. Rebuilding your life from ID theft can be very time consuming and costly, and that could also mean having to rebuild your credit rating.
Password managers such as LastPass and 1Password are certainly coming into fashion as our lives get more and more online. Not many people use them yet but those numbers are growing. It’s a good idea too as the average person needs to remember ten unique passwords. Having a password manager that does it for you kind of makes sense.
Canadians lost eleven million to identity theft in 2016 and that’s just five percent of victims reporting. That means it’s likely over 200 million and those numbers continue to rise. So remember, BBB Password Day is a friendly reminder of the importance of protecting your personal and financial information by changing your passwords once or twice a year.
For more information go to bit.ly/password-day. #bbbpasswordday