Sheesh. Just when I thought there was one crime I was too poor to be in danger of, now there’s ransomware. This malware locks up your files or images and won’t unlock them until you pay money.
The good news is, there’s a way around it.
Backup, backup, backup. We know we “should” back up our work and our files and images, but it’s just so easy to put it off to another day. Ransomware provides an additional incentive to make copies of anything important. When you have everything backed up, you don’t need to pay the ransom. You can just restore the system to a point before the ransomware got into your computer or device.
I have my pictures on a thumb drive and my Kindle books in the cloud. When I’m writing, I email the file to myself at the end of every workday, so my work is always out there for me to retrieve if I need to. Thus, I’m not vulnerable to ransomware.
I watch a lot of crime dramas. Lately, I’ve been noticing how many detectives and cops are portrayed as having outer doors that are all little windowpanes in the top half. Like they aren’t aware that a burglar can break or cut the glass and just reach in and unlock the door.
Likewise, too many TV families have a freaking great ladder just lying on the ground there. Hello. The burglar can take the ladder to a window that’s not overlooked by neighbors, climb up, break the window, and in they go. It’s a welcome mat.
And best of all, the key under the doormat. That really takes the prize. Any robber over age twelve knows about this, if only from seeing the morons on TV doing it. Fake rocks and frogs and flowerpots don’t delay them by much; they’ve seen that too.
Forgodsake, if you’re at all concerned about being robbed, put in a solid door, lock up the ladder, and leave the spare key with a neighbor, not right by the door.
Then if you haven’t been hacked you are massively lucky and should buy a lotto ticket today. Hackers use password cracking software that tries various passwords until it succeeds. Naturally, they try the most common ones first.
Most common passwords
I understand the problem. Naturally, you want something you can easily remember. A far safer method is to use the first letters of a memorable phrase. Instead of ‘football’, how about I Watch 2 Football Games A Day On Sunday – iw2fgados. Using the numeral 2 complies with some sites’ insistence on using at least one number. If a site require a special character, you could start or end with ! If you need four numbers, only, use the phone keypad to determine the number that corresponds to the first four words of your memorable phrase.
Another example: I Love 2 Take Long Walks 4 Health = Il2tlw4h
Each person will have their own ideas about a memorable phrase.
I also use a different phrase for financial sites, like online banking, than I do for ordinary sites, and yet a different one for social media. Facebook is a target of hackers, your password there should never be the same as your password for financial sites.
Marie Brack is the author of Frugal Living for the 21st Century: Adventures in Using Your Money Wisely. It’s available on Amazon.com in both Kindle and paperback versions.
Many debit and credit card issuers now watch our accounts for activity that isn’t normal for us, to nip theft in the bud. If a home-body suddenly starts charging airfare and hotels, often they will place a temporary hold on the card until they can contact the customer and confirm that this unusual usage is legitimate.
If you’re not a gamer at all and suddenly buy a raft of them, the card issuer wonders if the card was stolen. They don’t know your grand kids want those for Christmas.
If you aren’t prepared for this, it can slow you down in paying your normal bills and activities with that card.
You can save a little aggravation by calling the company before starting an uncharacteristic series of purchases.
Clearing out papers for the new year? It’s important to destroy any data that could let identity thieves do you harm. Account numbers, date of birth, place of birth (those security questions websites ask you), and most importantly social security number.
The most common suggestion is a shredder. The best shredder is a cross-cut style that makes confetti instead of strips. Theoretically, a patient person could reassemble strips. Personally, I think that as long as businesses and my neighbors are carelessly discarding whole sheets of paper, no one has the motivation to try to piece together shredded strips. If my data is harder to get to than the next person’s it’s relatively safe.
When my shredder quite working a few years ago. I looked around for alternatives. My favorite is tearing off the important parts, tearing them up, and getting them very wet. Once they are soaked and soft, I squeeze the into a very tight ball and throw it out. You can’t tell by looking at it that it’s anything important, and there’s no way to undo it and still be able to read anything.
I read about the idea of disposing of large amounts of paper by soaking them in water in a large bucket or pan until they disintegrate into pulp. I tested this. On day one I tore a bunch of unneeded checks in half and immersed them in water in a soup bowl. Twenty-four hours later they were soft enough to easily pull into small pieces. Three days later they were still soft but showed no sign of turning back into pulp. Maybe I should have used a container large enough that I could stir and mash them. As it was, I just squished the softened checks into a tight ball and threw it out.
This review is from: Frugal Living for the 21st Century: Adventures in Using Your Money Wisely (Kindle Edition)
This book is jam-packed with tips, ideas, and strategies for saving money. It’s the Tightwad Gazette of the 21st century… internet addresses for DIY help, encouragement for readers, personal anecdotes, this book has it all. To top it off, it’s delivered in a light, easy to read style that isn’t preachy or judgmental. A very helpful, and enjoyable, read!”
The Tightwad Gazette has been the “bible” of thrifty living. My hope was to make it the ‘old testament’ and mine the ‘new testament’, and it seems I have succeeded.
As if tax season wasn’t bad enough in itself, there are scammers all set to make it into a real tragedy.
Scammers prey on us by knowing what we worry about. How to pay overdue taxes, how to get a better refund faster, the threat of an audit, these are our areas of vulnerability at tax time. Protect yourself by going directly to www.irs.gov for information. Take any snail mail notices to your tax preparer or call the IRS about it. (Use a phone with unlimited minutes and get comfortable, they’re understaffed this year.) Use good old American common sense and skepticism to analyze any email or social media you receive that claim to help you with the IRS or claim to be from the IRS.
The IRS warns us that the IRS will never ask for personal information via social media or email. If you receive an email supposedly from the IRS don’t open any attachments and forward it to email@example.com.
The IRS will never ask you for the password or PIN to your bank accounts, stock accounts or credit card accounts.