Experian is alerting consumers to the importance of strong password protection, following reports that nearly 6.5 million passwords belonging to members of social networking website LinkedIn may have been leaked online.
Experian figures show that more than one in two people (54%) use the same password for two or more online accounts, with 22% using the same password for ‘most’ or ‘all’ of their accounts. For a significant proportion of internet users, these kind of password leaks can open up many of their online profiles to fraudsters, who could use them to collect valuable personal information.
Peter Turner, Managing Director of Experian Consumer Services, UK&I said: “We might think that secure password protection is only a priority for our financial accounts, but fraudsters know how to use personal information such as dates of birth, addresses and maiden names – all things that you might record on any number of personal profiles – to steal your identity.
“With fraud on the increase, you should take steps to provide a unique and secure password for every one of the accounts you hold online, change these passwords regularly, and never write them down or share them with anyone. If you think that someone may be gaining access to your accounts, make sure that you check your credit report for any signs of potential fraud.”
Credit Expert customers can now receive protection for their personal and financial information through a new web monitoring service, which constantly monitors their information across the web and social networks, alerting them by email and SMS if their information is found with advice on what to do next to protect themselves. Credit reports are also monitored to alert users when potentially fraudulent activity takes place, and a dedicated caseworker is appointed from its award-winning Victims of Fraud team to help resolve any issues.
If you think your password may have been compromised, putting you at risk of identity theft, Experian suggests some key tips:
1. Change your passwords
If you fear that your password may have been leaked, change it immediately, and make sure to do the same for any accounts which use the same password. Try to avoid memorable words, particularly based on information that may be on your profile.
2. Make a strong password
Try to keep passwords at least eight characters in length – 10 or more is preferable. Try to include upper and lower case letters, numbers and special characters. Rather than words, use the initial letter of a memorable sentence. “I need to choose a new password right now” could become “In2c@nPrN”
3. Keep an eye on your credit report
It’s a history of all your credit accounts and will highlight any irregularities such as people applying for loans or cards in your name. You can view your credit report free with a 30 day trial with Experian CreditExpert. (New members only. Monthly fee applies after trial. Free trial period starts on registration – further ID verification may be required to access full service, which may take up to 5 days)
4. If in doubt, don’t click
If an email purporting to be from a site you have registered with seems suspicious, contact the relevant organisation and don’t give out personal details. Your bank, credit card provider and any reputable business will never ask for confirmation of details by email.
5. If you do become a victim of fraud
Contact your bank and lenders immediately to alert them to suspected fraud.
- LinkedIn hacking: a timely internet security reminder (guardian.co.uk)
- Change Your LinkedIn Password Now – PCWorld (pcworld.com)
- Millions of passwords from LinkedIn and eHarmony leaked online (news.consumerreports.org)