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(FREDERIC J. BROWN)
(FREDERIC J. BROWN)

Angela Self's Smart Cookies

Have you updated your passwords lately? Add to ...

If you're like me, you have accounts with multiple online sites: banking, telephone, newspapers, Twitter, Oprah.com, and so on. And many of us keep track of so many registrations by reusing a user name and password. Having just one is easier - but, it also puts you at a greater risk for fraud.

Thousands of Canadians report fraudulent activity every month. Some acts of fraud are simply beyond our control, but others could be avoided with simple changes to the way we manage our online activity. For starters: We should have multiple passwords for online accounts. Create one for sites that store or require financial information. Create another for non-financial sites that contain personal information, such as social networking sites. Then, create a third for any other site that you belong to that does not store your personal information.

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According to a recent survey by online security firm Trusteer, more than 73 per cent of U.S. bank customers use their online account password to log in to other non-secure sites. Doing this helps criminals to hack into less secure areas more easily and steal information. They can then use it to try to break into your financial accounts.

You also might need to update your online security questions. If a verification question asks for the name of your childhood pet, make sure the answer can't be found from simply scanning your Facebook page and locating the album dedicated to you and Buster.

March is Fraud Prevention Month. What better time to update your passwords? Do it tonight.

Angela Self is one of the founders of the Smart Cookies money group. Read her weekly column on managing debt and saving money at globeinvestor.com .

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