Protecting yourself in a digital world


On more than one occasion in the past quarter I have read many articles about the latest scams doing the rounds. We have included an Alert from the FMA around a scam circulating at the moment. The next article is around the importance of protecting your passwords for the various websites that impact our daily lives.

In my digital existence I have 104 password protected websites and applications that I use. Some of these frequently and some not often at all, but without the password they are merely objects of frustration. Back in the recent past the solution was to have a couple of master passwords that I could easily remember. This worked well until a number of them required changing every other month. We found a work around and the name of our first family pet and the number of our first house did the trick for a while.

But technology moves on, the number of people wanting to steal my passwords increased and they were getting smarter at how they went about their business (and it is a business). The number of characters required in a password increased and you needed to use both upper and lower case, the inclusion of numbers and more recently symbols. This is all designed to stop a computer program from cracking your password.

When it comes to passwords, bigger is better.

With 104 passwords to remember and 16 characters a piece, that’s a lot of RAM (for you IT savvy readers, brain cells for the rest of us) being taken up. How do we cope?

I use a password management system which stores these by category and site name. My master password is stored securely elsewhere and a trusted couple of individuals have authority to access it should I be indisposed. I only need to remember one password as a result, and this gets updated every 45 days.

I am unable to confirm the correctness of the following chart, but it seeks to demonstrate the point above (thanks George Hill for supplying this).


Scams come in all shapes and sizes.

You have email scams with an offer too good to be true, phone calls from someone purporting to be your bank or telecommunications provider looking to solve a problem, Facebook quizzes that ask questions about first pet names, date of birth, mother’s maiden name, your first street address etc. These are all designed to trick you into revealing possible passwords.

Scams are big business and have teams of people trained in client communications and the necessary skills to compromise your computers. Five main scams you need to look out for are:

Phishing Scams - Trick you into clicking on a shady link or coughing up your personal info. Outsmart these scammers by treating every unsolicited email like a mystery to be solved. Double-check sender details, resist the temptation to click on random links, and equip your device with trusty anti- phishing software.

Online Shopping - They set up ghost shops, offer ridiculously low prices, and then vanish faster than your favourite Kiwi dip at a party. Dodge these scams by sticking with well-known retailers, looking for secure website signs (like ‘https’ and a padlock icon in the website address bar on your browser), reading reviews, and giving the side-eye to deals that seem too good to be true. Because they probably are.

Tech Support Scams - These tech support scammers use fear to swoop in as your ‘rescue team’, only to ask for unnecessary fees or remote access to your device. Keep cool when this happens, remember to verify before acting, and never give remote access to your device unless you’re 100% certain of the service provider’s authenticity.

Online Romance - They target those seeking companionship, create false profiles, and then play the long game to earn your trust. Once the bond is formed, they’ll ask for money for an ‘emergency.’ How to guard your heart and wallet? Keep things slow and steady, conduct a little online research of your own about the person, and never, ever send money to someone you haven’t met in person, no matter how compelling the sob story.

Lottery Winnings – Scammers often announce that you’ve hit the jackpot, only to ask for ‘processing fees’ to claim the prize. Always remember real lotteries or competitions don’t ask winners to pay fees or taxes upfront. If it’s a lottery you don’t recall entering, it’s best to keep that victory dance on hold.

Always be cautious of answering calls from an ‘Unknown number’. If you don’t know who the caller is shortly after answering, our recommendation is to hang up.

Please note, a reputable company will never:

  • Request your password.
  • Request your credit card details.
  • Threaten to disconnect your
  • Tell you that you’ve already been hacked and offer to fix it.
  • Request remote access to your personal computer, laptop or other devices.
  • Tell you to turn all other devices and phones in your house off.

There are a number of websites that provide detail on the latest scams. For a little more information please check some of these out. individuals/

Talk to a family member or someone you can trust if you think you are being scammed or are receiving calls repeatedly from unknown numbers.

Keeping the scammers at bay is all about staying informed and alert. These tricksters may be cunning, but with your common sense and these handy tips, you’re a step ahead. If ever in doubt please contact friends, family or us, and we’ll help keep you safe.