Two-factor authentication is one of the best ways to protect yourself against identity theft scams. And the great news is that it takes only a minute or two to set up two-factor authentication as part of your overall online safety strategy.
What It Is
Two-factor authentication, also known as multifactor authentication, is a security process that helps control who can access your password-protected online accounts—including bank, shopping, email, health insurance, and other websites.
Why It’s Needed
Two-factor authentication is designed to augment the traditional login process. Using that method, you simply enter a username and password, and voilá! You’re logged in to the site. It’s quick, it’s easy … and it leaves you extremely vulnerable.
All a thief needs to steal your identity is your username and password. With that limited information—which is often very easy to acquire—he can log in to your favorite websites and change your password, view private information such as your home address and medical information, and potentially steal or use your stored payment information.
How It Works
Two-factor authentication adds an additional layer of security to the traditional login process. When you set it up, you’ll still need to enter your username and password, but you’ll also be asked to verify your identity through a second authentication factor.
How does that work? Well, most often it means that after you enter your username and password, a PIN will be sent to your mobile phone or other device. You then have to enter that PIN to gain login to the website. This additional step means that a thief would have to not only have your username and password but also your mobile phone—a far less likely scenario.
Other forms of two-factor authentication involve offering a biometric identity marker such as a fingerprint, or corporations sometimes provide a security token or ID card that can be used as the second authentication factor.
How Do I Sign Up?
Most major websites—from Amazon to Facebook to Google and Microsoft—offer two-factor authentication. To sign up, simply go to the help page for every site where you enter a password and go through the steps provided. It shouldn’t take more than a minute or two, and it could be the key to preventing identity theft.
Once you’ve set up two-factor authentication on all your favorite websites, you will be more secure—but you will not be safe. We’ve written about common types of identity theft scams, and two-factor authentication will not help you avoid all of them. You’ll still need to take other steps to monitor and protect your identity, potentially with the help of an identity theft protection solution.
One more thing: Make sure to change your authentication methods now and then, and keep an eye out for new processes that will make you even more secure. The unfortunate reality is that hackers are no doubt working hard to undermine two-factor authentication methods, so you’ll need to keep updated to stay one step ahead.