With the rates of fraud, scams, hacking, and identity theft continuing to rise, we all want to do everything we can to minimize our risk. But short of making your life so inconvenient that a thief—and truthfully, you—can’t access any of your accounts or information, there are only so many ways to completely ensure that your data doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.
There is one thing you can do to secure your information, and on the inconvenience scale, it’s really not too difficult. Two-factor authentication might sound fairly complicated or involved, but really it’s just the technical term for relying on two methods of login credentials before it lets you access your account.
We used to rely on security questions as a means of authentication, but with the rise in theft of that information, it’s not as reliable as you might think. There are also too many ways to piece that data together. For example, a quick look back at your Facebook posts and friends list might let a hacker know your mother’s maiden name or the city where you were born.
One of the most common methods of 2FA is to submit a request for a one-time code sent via text message. Once the code comes to your phone, you then enter the code into the site you’re using along with your password. That means anyone who has already gained access to your username and password would also have to have access to your text messages—therefore, your phone or mobile device—in order to access your account.
There’s another form of two-factor authentication that’s become very popular due to the rise in consumer use of more advanced smartphones, and that’s the fingerprint. Using both your login credentials and your pre-loaded fingerprint, any thieves would have to have your hand in order to access your mobile wallet, email, social media, or other accounts. It might sound like the stuff of horrific sci-fi movies, but it really is a secure authentication method.
One of the things stopping people from relying on this more secure form of access is the idea that it’s time-consuming. No one wants to hold up the line at the checkout while waiting for a text message with a login code, but in reality, these codes are sent almost instantaneously. That’s why enabling it on your smartphone’s mobile wallet or other sensitive accounts is a good idea.
Anyone can be a victim of identity theft, anyone can use our services, and anyone can help us help others. If you found this information useful, please consider donating to the Identity Theft Resource Center to help us keep our services free to the public.