How To Keep Your Online Presence Safe During the Holiday Season

With the holidays coming up, people are doing lots of online shopping.  It is very important to keep your online presence safe!  Last week I heard the Amazon website may have been hacked and user IDs and passwords may have been compromised.

Now is the time to change your password for all of your online accounts.  Especially accounts where you have credit card or other financial information stored!

When you change your password, make it a STRONG password!

Use each type of character that the website allows. For example, some websites only allow you to use letters, capital letters, and numbers.  Others allow you to use special characters like “@”, or “&”, or “#”.  Always use the special characters unless the website doesn’t allow you to. One of the best ways to make a strong password is use a word that is familiar to you and change some of the letters.  For example, you can change “a” to “A” or “@”.  You can change “o” to “O” or “0”.  An “s” can become “5” or “$”.  You get the idea.  It’s also important to use a long password.  Most websites require eight characters, but you should use at least 16 characters wherever the website allows you to.  Adding a date to your familiar word will add another eight characters to your password

Here are the steps to follow:

  1. Use letters and capitals
  2. Use numbers
  3. Use special characters
  4. Replace letters with capitals, numbers, and special characters
  5. Make the password at least 16 characters long, or as long as the website will allow you

So a good strong password could be “1_lIk3-$un5ets_1215” instead of “Ilikesunsets”

When you change your password, make it a UNIQUE password!

Use a different password for each site.  When you use the same password on multiple sites it makes it that much easier for hackers to get into your accounts on other sites as well.  Each site where you have stored credit card information or other financial information should have a different and unique password.  So, yes, you’ll need a different one for Amazon and eBay.  And, you’ll need a different one for Fidelity and  Charles Schwab.

What’s the best way to do this?  Add two or more characters to your strong password to indicate which site it is for.  For example, you could use  “1_lIk3-$un5ets_F1d”, or  “1_lIk3-$un5ets_eby”

Phishing is also a holiday issue!

Phishing is where someone tries to trick you into giving them your sensitive and private information.  Generally, they’ll send you an email.  (They might also call you on your phone.)  They tell you that there is an issue with your Amazon or Charles Schwab account and you need to update your password immediately.  The email looks legitimate and you are tempted to click on the “Log into your account now!” button.  Even if it is a legitimate email, you should always go directly to the official website and log on from there.


Do you already use strong passwords?  What tricks do you use?  How do you remember them all?  Share your tips with your fellow readers in the comments below!

Chris Eddy of Geek For Hire, Inc. has been providing computer service to families and small businesses with Mac’s and PC’s for the past fourteen years. His company is highly rated by both the BBB (Better Business Bureau) and by Angie’s List. You can find more at  Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service (Tier 3) to the Denver / Boulder / Front Range area and remote service throughout North America.

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