By Robin Schmidt
Social Security Public Affairs Specialist for Alaska
Being safe online is important every day. There may be days devoted to internet security awareness, but you need to be careful every time you go online.
Do you know what it takes to be safe online? You probably connect daily to get information, shop, socialize, or work. Every time you go online, you need to avoid the risk of theft or fraud. Here are some tips to use while visiting the Social Security website and the other websites you use.
- Use Strong Passwords–Strong passwords have at least eight characters and include capital letters, numbers, and non-letter characters. These passwords make it harder for someone to hack your account.
- Don’t Recycle Passwords–Although it requires effort to think of new passwords constantly, it provides safety when you do. What if you use the same password for every site and you lose your password? If someone finds it, they could get access to all your accounts. Many people choose to reuse — don’t be one of them.
- Take Advantage of Multifactor Authentication–Many websites offer the option to use a second factor—or method—in addition to just a username and password to ensure that only you access your information. Using more than one factor to establish identity makes it harder for someone to get into your account and steal your personal information. Beginning June 10, 2017, Social Security requires multifactor authentication to access a my Social Security Customers choose whether to receive a one-time security code to either their phone or email in order create a new account or sign into their account. Visit this link to find out more about how to secure your personal my Social Security account: www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount/verifyandprotectid.html. Consider using multifactor authentication whenever it’s offered to protect your information.
- Read Scam Alerts–For information about fraudulent activities related to Social Security, you can find information at our blog Social Security Matters under the Newsroom section at socialsecurity.gov. One way to avoid identity theft is to create your own my Social Security account, if you haven’t already. When you have an account, no one else can set up an account using your information. Social Security’s Office of the Inspector General investigates fraud involving Social Security and they publish Fraud Advisories at oig.ssa.gov/newsroom/news-release. The Federal Trade Commission website publishes information about scams that appear in the news at www.consumer.ftc.gov/scam-alerts. You’ll want to be aware of current scams to avoid being tricked.
- Review Your Online Accounts and Credit Reports–Just as you review your earnings record with Social Security for accuracy at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount, you should review your bank and credit card accounts for accuracy. Get a free copy of your credit report available annually from the three credit reporting agencies (Experian, Equifax, and Transunion) at annualcreditreport.com/ and check it for incorrect entries.
Protecting your identity can be daunting. Guarding your personal information requires investing some time, but is worth it. Discourage theft and fraud by adopting these security practices when you use the internet.