Final month, I printed a visitor submit from David Champion about the advantages he’s derived from gamifying his retirement spending. A dialogue developed within the feedback associated to the problem of securing your on-line accounts.

David was a software program engineer earlier than retiring early. Along with the experience his background gives, he’s hung out and power educating himself on the subject of securing your id and monetary accounts.

He has generously provided to share that experience in a sensible and actionable method. Take it away David….

We’ve all heard of it, proper? The 80-20 rule holds that 80% of outcomes are attributable to twenty% of causes. It has been used to elucidate ends in domains as numerous as engineering, economics and psychology. It may be a helpful heuristic when selecting between choices the place the best name will not be in any other case apparent.

Right here I need to apply it to an space that many people neglect, however that we must always most likely pay extra consideration to: securing our monetary belongings from id thieves and cybercriminals.

Defending ourselves from all attainable threats would require a mind-numbing array of preventative measures. It’s merely not definitely worth the effort for the overwhelming majority of us.

However I suggest that implementing simply two of them will shield us from 80% of the risk universe. That’s, when it comes to the 80-20 rule, implementing simply 20% of preventative measures will internet us 80% safety.

As a bonus, in a follow-up submit I’ll current two further steps that, when mixed with the primary two, will get us nearer to 95% safety.

Associated: Protecting Your Assets in a Digital World

Freeze Your Credit score Reviews

Freezing your credit score stories is maybe the only only step you possibly can take to mitigate the danger of id theft.


Earlier than a monetary establishment agrees to promote you a product, it must know that you’re who you say you might be and, in that case, that you’re a good monetary citizen. It does this by pulling your credit score report, sometimes from one of many three principal credit score reporting companies: Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion.

To drag your credit score report, the monetary establishment wants your social safety quantity, together with different bits of personally identifiable info (PII), to current to a number of of those companies. You present these particulars to the monetary establishment. In trade, they think about you for the services or products you might be making use of for.

Now, think about this chilling truth. Regardless of your finest efforts to maintain it a secret, your social safety quantity is probably going already available on the dark web, simply ready to be exploited by an id thief.

Alongside together with your different requisite PII–most of which is available within the public area–an id thief can use your social safety quantity to use for a mortgage or bank card, or open a checking account, in your title. As soon as this occurs, the harm to your monetary bona fides will be devastating. The burden is fully on you to clear it up.

In case your credit score stories are frozen, nevertheless, the id thief has an issue: the credit score reporting company received’t launch a report that has been frozen with out authorization to take action. Because you instituted the freeze, solely you can present this authorization. And with out the credit score report, the monetary establishment will deny the applying for the monetary services or products.

All of a sudden, your leaked social safety quantity is rather a lot much less invaluable to the id thief, and he’ll transfer on to the following sufferer.

Motion Gadgets

The house pages of the massive three credit score reporting companies I linked above present step-by-step directions for freezing your credit score report, so I’m not going to regurgitate the main points right here. Suffice it to say it’ll take you an hour, tops, to implement freezes in any respect three.

Better of all, due to a federal law handed in 2018, all three companies are required to supply this service without charge to you.

You could have to scroll down the homepage a bit to seek out the best place to begin (in spite of everything, these companies need to promote you their paid providers, not give away the free ones). I simply confirmed that every homepage options the related hyperlink.


There are a few particulars price mentioning. The entire credit score companies provide credit score locks, along with freezes. I like to recommend the latter. Locks are theoretically simpler to raise, however the companies cost you a charge for the privilege. Except you might be planning to use for loans, bank cards, and the like within the close to future, should you select a lock you’ll be paying for a comfort you seemingly received’t use.

Additionally, should you do wind up having to raise a freeze, you’ll have to know at which company to raise it. For instance, lately I utilized for a Chase bank card. Chase didn’t make it clear which company they use to drag credit score stories.

A easy Google search yielded the reply. With that, I logged in to my account at that company and unfroze my file. They even allowed me to set an expiration date for the thaw, so I didn’t have to recollect to log again in to re-freeze it.

Freezing your credit score stories received’t utterly erase the worth of your social safety quantity to dangerous actors. An id thief may nonetheless file a fraudulent tax return, or apply for (and even work at) a job, utilizing your social safety quantity. Neither motion requires the intervention of a credit score reporting company.

However herein lies one other manifestation of the 80-20 rule. The 80% safety gained from freezing your credit score stories is best than the 0% with out.

Final Phrase

Don’t give out your social safety quantity to only anybody. A very good rule of thumb is that this: should you didn’t provoke a contact, and that contact asks you on your social safety quantity, don’t reveal it. And should you did provoke the contact, a minimum of ask them why they want it.

Associated: Identity Theft Strikes Home!

Don’t Open Unverified Attachments or Hyperlinks

The second most essential step you possibly can take to guard your self will not be one thing you ought to do, however slightly one thing you shouldn’t do; and that’s open attachments or hyperlinks in your smartphone, pill or pc except you might be certain they’re legit.


Malicious attachments and hyperlinks are kinds of phishing attacks. They will come not simply within the type of e mail attachments, but in addition clickable hyperlinks embedded in emails and textual content messages.

In case you open a malicious attachment or hyperlink, your gadget could turn into compromised. In the perfect case, this might imply it is going to be co-opted in a cryptocurrency mining pool, inflicting your gadget to gradual to a crawl (see cryptojacking). Within the worst case, the information in your gadget may very well be encrypted, making it inaccessible to you pending fee of a steep ransom (see ransomware).

Motion Gadgets

Develop Good Habits

Avoiding these (and doubtlessly different catastrophic) outcomes merely requires creating good habits; like fastening your seatbelt earlier than you even begin the automobile, or brushing your tooth very first thing within the morning.

Begin by assuming each attachment or hyperlink you lay eyeballs on is malicious. That’s, assume it’s responsible till confirmed harmless.

Due Dilligence

How do you show an attachment or hyperlink is harmless? It begins with the identical recommendation I gave for divulging your social safety quantity. In case you requested the e-mail or textual content message containing the attachment or hyperlink, it’s most likely okay. However should you didn’t request it, it most likely will not be.

Even when the e-mail got here from an individual you understand and belief, should you didn’t request the e-mail, verify with that particular person to substantiate they certainly despatched it earlier than opening the attachment or hyperlink. Email spoofing is astoundingly straightforward.

Consequently, the tactic is usually utilized by cybercriminals. This tactic has tricked even the savviest of recipients into opening malicious attachments.

If the e-mail got here from an entity you have no idea personally, however with whom you’ve a relationship (say your financial institution), learn the e-mail rigorously earlier than opening any attachments. Does the e-mail make sense? Is it written in good English, utilizing right spelling and grammar? If the reply to any of those isn’t any, then the attachment is sort of assuredly malicious.

Even when it passes the native-English take a look at, be suspicious if the e-mail comprises baiting language. For instance, an e mail out of your financial institution requesting that you just log in instantly to alter your password due a “safety incident” is a pink flag. A financial institution or monetary establishment will by no means ask you to take such motion by way of a hyperlink embedded in an unsolicited e mail or textual content message.

When In Doubt

Lastly, if the e-mail got here from someone or one thing you’ve by no means heard of, assume it’s malicious and delete it (or transfer it to your spam folder) summarily. This may be particularly laborious to do if the message comprises baiting language of one other type, corresponding to, “Click on right here to say your prize!

Typically talking, the extra tempted you might be to open an attachment or hyperlink–by worry, greed or another highly effective emotion–the extra suspicious try to be.

Social engineering methods are particularly designed on this technique to manipulate potential victims. Don’t let your self be one in every of them.


There are various different methods a hacker can attempt to trick you; far too many to catalog right here. Simply being conscious that social engineering is a factor will put you forward of the curve.

Above all, keep in mind the 80-20 rule. In case you develop a behavior of wholesome skepticism towards all attachments and hyperlinks, you’ll shield your self from the overwhelming majority of threats.

Final Phrase

For an additional layer of safety, maintain the software program in your gadgets updated. New vulnerabilities are being found actually every single day. Machine and app distributors are in a relentless race to remain forward of them by way of software program updates.

The extra updated your software program, the much less seemingly your gadget shall be compromised should you by chance open a malicious attachment or hyperlink. That’s as a result of the seller could have included protections in opposition to the malware in a latest replace.

So the following time your smartphone, pill, or pc prompts you to do an replace, assume twice about rejecting it. Higher nonetheless, allow automated updates in your gadget. That method, you received’t even have to consider it.

Wrapping Up

Freezing your credit score stories and working towards vigilance with attachments and hyperlinks will go a great distance towards defending your belongings and id. You get numerous safety for minimal effort and 0 price.

In an upcoming submit I’ll suggest two further steps you possibly can take to stretch your safety even additional. To whet your urge for food, the subjects of that submit shall be multi-factor authentication and good password hygiene.

True to the 80-20 rule, there are methods to maximise the advantages of these, too, whereas avoiding useless further complexity. So keep tuned for these particulars within the subsequent submit.

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[Chris Mamula used principles of traditional retirement planning, combined with creative lifestyle design, to retire from a career as a physical therapist at age 41. After poor experiences with the financial industry early in his professional life, he educated himself on investing and tax planning. After achieving financial independence, Chris began writing about wealth building, DIY investing, financial planning, early retirement, and lifestyle design at Can I Retire Yet? He is also the primary author of the book Choose FI: Your Blueprint to Financial Independence. Chris also does financial planning with individuals and couples at Abundo Wealth, a low-cost, advice-only financial planning firm with the mission of making quality financial advice available to populations for whom it was previously inaccessible. Chris has been featured on MarketWatch, Morningstar, U.S. News & World Report, and Business Insider. He has spoken at events including the Bogleheads and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants annual conferences. Blog inquiries can be sent to Financial planning inquiries can be sent to]

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