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We live in a world where identities can be stolen and lives subsequently ruined in just a few days without the victim ever knowing it happened.

Identity theft is one of those things that most people are aware of but think "It’ll never happen to me”. The truth is, it can happen to anyone at any time and is getting more and more common, we all make sure we lock our cars and homes up securely but many of us fail to take adequate steps to protect our online lives.

73% of people use the same, simple password for all of their online accounts (Facebook, Email, PayPal, Internet Banking) without realising the catastrophic effect this can have if that single password falls into the wrong hands or is guessed.

Ideally you should have a different password for each and every online account you own, these passwords should be long and alpha numeric, something like fG7*sL5o&pV$K which is impossible to guess and very difficult to crack even with password hacking software. There are several online services that exist (LastPass / KeePass / PassPack) that allow you to securely store secure passwords like these for each of your accounts, all protected by one master password.

If you’re not willing to use something like this and are happy to carry on using the same password across multiple sites then please just change ONE password, your email account.

Why is my email account so important?

If someone has access to your email account, they also have access to pretty much your entire online life. Most websites offer a ‘reset password via email’ function and a simple search of your email history will bring up a list of all the websites you are registered on including your internet banking.

A hacker can also send emails from your account pretending to be you which alone can have devastating consequences.

So how can I protect my email account?

The first thing you need to do is go and change your password, now! Change it to something like fG7*sL5o&pV$K then come back and read the rest of this blog.

Welcome back, that was easy wasn’t it! You could have just saved yourself from a LOT of pain. Ok so now you have a secure email password, here is how to keep it secure:

1) Change your password regularly, every month is ideal. This stops anyone who may have obtained your password from doing any damage.

2) Be aware of Phishing scams – Phishing is when you receive an official looking email requesting you to go to a web page and enter your password. You might think a person would have to be silly to fall for such a trick but phishing scams can be very convincing and strike fear into you with requests such as "Your Account may have been compromised, please change your password to protect yourself” – you would then go to a fake website which looks like the real thing and enter your ‘old password’ and ‘new password’, effectively handing your password over the scammers.

3) Try to avoid accessing your Email from a public computer or over public WiFi, scammers can use key loggers to record every password you have entered and can easily obtain sensitive data over shared networks. If you absolutely must access your email from a public place, change your password as soon as you can from a secure location such as your home / work.

4) Ensure you have up to date Anti-Virus software on all of your devices – Personally I use Avast! Which is free and offer comprehensive protection. Anti-Virus software will protect you from any nasty viruses that can track your login details and send them to hackers. 

Congratulations, you’re safe!

I hope this bog has opened your eyes to the dangers of having weak passwords and hopefully encouraged you to be safer online.

If you have any experiences or tips and tricks to share about staying safe online let me know in the comments box below!

Happy Selling!

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