When you enter a piece of information into a website, what happens to it? Is it protected from unwanted eyes?
The truth is that you have no idea who has access to your personal information, even if the site does seem
trustworthy. There may be a dishonest company employee who can easily read the login and password files. You
may even unwittingly give criminals or hackers your personal information without knowing it.
I learned a huge lesson a few years ago when someone hacked into my email, my eBay account, and Paypal,
changed some of the passwords, and began purchasing items with my money. I was locked out of my eBay and
Paypal accounts. It took weeks to fix the problem and my credit rating. My mistake was to use the same password
for all websites I registered at, including these three sites, and the password was my house number and street
address – which gave the thief the answer to my security question and access to other personal information about
me. I must have signed up at an unsecure website and someone used the information to their advantage.
There are numerous ways to secure your personal information and protect your home and family. Here are a few
simple but important things you should always do:
Don’t use the same login and password for every website.
Never use your email password anywhere else. When you register for any account with your email
address and a password, the first thing a criminal will do is to try that password with your email login.
Change important passwords for email and online banking accounts on a regular basis.
Never put any personal information, such as an address, birthday or social security number, in your
Create a free email address (using an online service like Yahoo, Hotmail or Gmail) and use it when you
register for websites. You’ll prevent spam from clogging your regular inbox, and if a hacker or virus does
get into your email account, they won’t be able to access your contacts or personal information.
Don’t use your real birthday when companies ask for it. I always use my correct year but a different
month and day. If I ever win a contest, I can say that I entered the wrong information by mistake.
The problem today is that we have so many logins and passwords to remember that we begin using personal
information and repeating passwords just to keep track of them all. It may be more difficult to come up and
remember with unique passwords, but your personal safety is important. You can use passwords that contain
numbers and symbols (like #, %, @ and *) and foreign language words.
Another trick is to choose a password that begins with the same first letter as the website. For example, my
password for the LifeShield security system website begins with the letter “L”, and my login for The New York
Times begins with a “T”. It helps me remember and keep track while protecting my information. I also use a
series of short word phrases, such as “Lovemyshoes” or “Thisisgoodnews” which are easy to remember and non-
It’s up to you to protect your personal information online. Use your common sense so that you don’t become a
victim of identity theft.