Skip to Content
username credentials screen
© Agencyby | Dreamstime.com
How-tos

Username mistakes you’re making that put you at risk online

When it comes to online security, you’ll hear plenty of chatter about passwords. And for good reason. Strong, unique passwords are among the first lines of defense you have against hackers, spammers and scammers.

We’ve been trained to use good password practices for some time. Most websites request a mix of capital and lowercase letters, numbers, special characters and any combination. But there’s more to creating a secure password. Tap or click here for 10 tips to lock down your accounts with strong passwords.

Have you given any thought to usernames? You may have some that haven’t changed in decades. And that may be fine, depending on what information is contained within them. That’s right. You can give away too much just with the names you use for your accounts. Here are five username mistakes to avoid.

Your username contains personal info

In the early days of messaging services (remember AOL?), we had the opportunity to create usernames representing who we were. While declaring your love for the Beatles or the beach is ok (as long as those aren’t clues to your password — more on that below), revealing details about yourself in usernames is not safe.

For example, a physician using the screen name “joedoctor1265” is telling scammers he’s likely got money due to his profession. And do those numbers represent his birthday? Was he born in December 1965 or Jan. 2, 1965?

Let’s look at another one: maryroseark. Mary Rose from Arkansas? Is Rose her middle name or last name?

The above examples contain enough information to track these people down online. Even the smallest, most mundane detail gives people ammunition to find out more about you. It’s super easy, especially if they use a people search site. Tap or click here to remove yourself from creepy people search sites.

Your username connects to your password

Let’s say you do love the Beatles or the beach. Usernames like “beatles4ever” or “beachykeen” are simple (and perhaps cheesy) ways to show you’re a fan.

What’s not okay is your username giving hints to your password. Using a famous Beatles song as your password – something like “daytripper” – can be guessed easily enough. For beach fans, you don’t want to even hint about it in your password. Nothing with “seashell” or “sand.”

Here’s an example that’ll get you hacked in no time:

  • Username: twinkletwinkle.
  • Password: littlestar.

Any five-year-old can figure that one out.

Even if your username doesn’t connect to your password, you don’t want to use simple passwords like those above. Refer to the link in the intro regarding strong passwords.

RELATED: Necessary 60-second security checks: 4 quick cybersecurity steps to take NOW

You don’t change the default username

Some devices and programs give you a default username (such as “admin”) that you really should change. In some cases, it’s even blank. Your router and Wi-Fi are prime examples. They both come with usernames that you should change.

Tap or click here for some fun Wi-Fi naming ideas.

Tap or click here to find and change your router’s default username and password.

You reuse usernames

Like passwords, you should use different usernames for all your accounts. Think about it. If your accounts have the same login credentials, a hacker only needs to figure out one to have access to all of them!

A password manager can help in this case. These tools store and generates login information for all your devices and accounts. These programs can be installed as software or accessed through a website, browser extension or the cloud.

Our sponsor, Roboform, stores your passwords with just a tap or click. Online shopping and logins are easy thanks to its AutoFill function.

Roboform is available for Windows, Mac, iOS and Android and supports popular browsers such as Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Edge and Opera. Tap or click here for 50% off RoboForm everywhere subscriptions for Kim Komando users. That’s just $11.90 per year!

It’s not too late to change your usernames

If you now realize that one or more of your usernames are bad, don’t worry. In many cases, you can change them.

Look through the app or site for settings or instructions on changing your username. Here are some to get you started:

Twitter

  • Open the Twitter app, tap your profile picture, then select Settings and privacy.
  • Go to Your Account > Account information.
  • Tap Username and update the username currently listed in the Username field.
  • Tap Done when you’re finished.
  • While you’re at it, you can change your display name by going to your profile and tapping Edit profile.
  • Your display name is in the Name field.

Instagram

  • Open the Instagram app, tap on your profile picture and select Edit profile.
  • From here, you can change your Username and display name, which is in the Name field.
  • Tap Done when you’re finished.

OfferUp

  • Open the app and go to Settings.
  • Tap Edit next to your name and enter a new one.
  • Tap Done when you’re finished.
  • There’s no reason to show your face in your profile photo. Change it by tapping Account, then your profile photo.
  • Tap Take Photo to take a new photo, or tap Select Photo to choose a photo from your device.

eBay

  • You can’t change your eBay username from the app, so log in to your account from a desktop browser.
  • Tap your name, then Account settings.
  • Select Personal Information from under Personal Info.
  • Click Edit next to your username.
  • Tap Save when you’re done.
  • If your profile photo shows your face, change it.
  • Tap on your profile photo, then Edit profile.
  • Tap the pencil icon in the profile photo field and select a new photo.
  • Tap Done editing when you’re finished.

Keep reading: Tap or click here for three security steps every small business needs to take right now

Stop robocalls once and for all

Robocalls are not only annoying, but they scam Americans out of millions every year. Learn Kim's tricks for stopping them for good in this handy guide.

Get the eBook