The Price of Free: 10 Tips to Protect Your Identity

Top 10 Tips to Protect Your Identity From the Gift(?) of Free Stuff

Does anyone really think companies spend money on ‘free’ services without exacting a price?free-stuff

The price of free can cost you your identity, your wallet and if you lose either of these, your sanity. Protect your identity or pay a heavy price.

Free wifi has a price but so do free apps (ever look at the cost of a ‘free’ flashlight app on your phone- read this to find out the true cost), email and web offers that sound too good to be true (see kids, mom is always right) and all your social media sites that love all that personal information you post for anyone to see.

Protecting yourself can see overwhelming but there are 10 simple steps that you can take to reduce the cost of free.

  • From the NYT: Turn off the Wifi and Bluetooth on your phone when you aren’t using it. Turn wifi off when you leave your house or office. Hackers are known to set up a wifi network in public places such as an airport. The wifi on your phone is set up to seek out the closest available wifi and will ‘log on’ without your knowing it. It can take the guy sitting at the next gate a few seconds to steal whatever information they can suck out of your phone.

And please, please don’t ever let your credit card or banking apps on your phone store your user name and password….doing so is like taking all your money and leaving it on the table.

  • Use an app that controls what all your ‘Free’ mobile apps can access. I use App Opps Starter for my Android. The app (which doesn’t access any information) pulls a list of every app on my phone and allows me to turn off what the app can access. Finally I have a flashlight that won’t take photos with my camera without my permission.
  • Check the website address to make sure it is safe. Look for https://-. “Those five letters indicate that the page is encrypted, which prevents others from seeing what you’re doing. If you’re browsing the web in a Starbucks or any place with an open network and you do not see “https,” it’s possible that someone there with nefarious intentions can see the site you’re visiting and the exact pages you request on that site.”
  • Keep your browser secure. To guard your online transactions, use encryption software that scrambles information you send over the internet. A “lock” icon on the status bar of your internet browser means your information will be safe when it’s transmitted. Look for the lock before you send personal or financial information online.


  • Secure your laptop or phone when travelling (and by travelling I mean anywhere outside your home or office). We get so lazy and don’t want to be bothered to password protect our devices but the price of lazy can be more costly than the price of free. Stop and take a minute and look at your phone, your tablet and your laptop; look at the documents you saved to your desktop, your emails (because I bet your email is set up to open automatically when you open your browser), a form you filled out that you saved in a folder or emailed your accountant with your social security number…….. scared yet?

And please, if you aren’t going to set up a password for your devices, at least don’t set up your personal or business email to open automatically in your browser. ‘Protect your identity’ means protecting any document, email or form. 

  • From Before you dispose of a mobile device, check your owner’s manual, the service provider’s website, or the device manufacturer’s website for information on how to delete information permanently, and how to save or transfer information to a new device. Remove the memory or subscriber identity module (SIM) card from a mobile device. Remove the phone book, lists of calls made and received, voicemails, messages sent and received, organizer folders, web search history, and photosProtect who can see your posts on your favorite social media network.
  • Before you dispose of a computer, get rid of all the personal information it stores. Use a wipe utility program to overwrite the entire hard drive.

And offline, here are some excellent points from

  • Call 1 (888) 5-OPT-OUT or visit to stop pre-approved credit card applications that a thief could steal and use to get credit in your name.
  • Place outgoing mail into a locked mailbox such as a blue postal service box.
  • Don’t leave incoming mail sitting in an unlocked mailbox.
  • And, as an 11th tip: check your social media privacy settings and please check those of your children. Identity thieves are targeting teens and even younger kids and you might not find out about it for years. Check out this chilling article from the FTC.

We are all so busy that having to do ‘one more thing’ seems overwhelming at times, but sadly, there is simply no option. The pain of having someone steal your identity, or that of your childrens really is overwhelming and I speak from experience.

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Who am I? I have over 25 years of business development background identifying market trends and building innovative businesses in areas of technology and design. What do I do? I work with entrepreneurs to develop a viable business strategy, identify their target audience (Ideal Client Profile) and design a plan to target them.



Should Employees Use Social Media at Work?

What Harm Can a Tweet Make? Maybe More Than You Think!

social media at work

Should employees use social media at work?

Muhammad Adeel Javaid a Cyber Security Expert & Speaker posted this question in an article on LinkedIn. He began : “I get it… You’re completely convinced that allowing your employees to get on Facebook and Twitter would pull the rug out from under your bottom line. Because of that, you block chat, tweets, and all other social networking to make sure your workers are doing only what you pay them for. I am here, however, to suggest that there can be a backlash from that approach.” 

He went on to list 10 reasons why companies would benefit from allowing social media at work, including morale, communication, social research, PR and networking. To read the explanations for each item, click here. The articles was followed by expected responses: Yes, since they are going to do it anyway to a resounding No! since employees aren’t being paid to tweet. One reader commented that the response must be based on each employees occupation: No one wants an ER nurse or a machine operator to post while at work. Good point.

Jeremy Farrell, Global HR Service Delivery Model Leader – HRMS at IBM observed that “At IBM we allow and encourage responsible use of social media. We take it further though by implementing and encouraging the use of our own Communities, Blogs, Wikis, Apps etc. With 440k colleagues there is enough networking to keep us busy!! 

Interesting but as IBM may allow, or even encourage their employees to post to Communities, Blogs, Wikis etc. this argument isn’t relevant since these company supported platform are managed and monitored by IBM’s employees. This system pretty much ensures that everyone will watch what they post, tweet etc.

But, if it is true that IBM encourage their employees to use their own private social media at work, should the company have the right to monitor all their employee posts, tweets and emails? It a complex problem for business owners, both enterprise and 2-3 person companies.

What to allow, what to monitor and what to (try to) prohibit? There are 3 main areas of concern for all business owners when it comes to social media, and that includes email, in the workplace:

Productivity, Security & Reputation and Workplace Harassment (any of which could hurt your business)


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