How to keep your personal information safe from criminals
Protecting your personal information can help reduce your risk of identity theft. There are four main ways to do it: know who you share information with; store and dispose of your personal information securely, especially your ID number; ask questions before deciding to share your personal information; and maintain appropriate security on your computers and other electronic devices.
Keeping Your Personal Information Secure Offline
Lock your financial documents and records in a safe place at home, and keep your wallet or purse in a safe place at work.
Limit what you carry. When you go out, take only the credit or debit cards you need. Leave your ID card at home.
Before you share information at your workplace, a business, your child’s school, or a doctor’s office, ask why they need it, how they will keep it safe and the consequences of not sharing.
Shred credit applications, insurance forms, bank statements and other similar documents when you don’t need them any more.
Keeping Your Personal Information Secure Online
Know who you share your information with. Store and dispose of your personal information securely.
Be Alert to Impersonators
Make sure you know who is getting your personal or financial information. Don’t give out personal information on the phone, through mail or over the Internet unless you’ve initiated the contact or know who you’re dealing with. If a company that claims to have an account with you sends email asking for personal information, don’t click on links in the email. Instead, go to their site and contact them through customer service. Or, call the customer service number listed on your account statement and ask whether they really sent a request.
Safely Dispose of Personal Information
Before you donate or get rid of an old computer, delete all of the personal information it stores. Use a wipe utility program to overwrite the entire hard drive.
Before you chuck out an old cellphone check your owner’s manual, the service provider’s website, or the device manufacturer’s website for information on how to delete information permanently, and how to save or transfer information to a new device. Remove the memory and SIM card from the device. Delete the phone book, lists of calls made and received, voicemails, messages sent and received, organizer folders, web search history, and photos.
Keep Passwords Private
Use strong passwords with your laptop, credit, bank, and other accounts. Be creative: think of a special phrase and use the first letter of each word as your password. Substitute numbers for some words or letters. For example, “I want to see the Indian Ocean” could become 1W2CtIo.
Don’t Overshare on Social Networking Sites
If you post too much information about yourself, an identity thief can find information about your life, use it to answer ‘challenge’ questions on your accounts, and get access to your money and personal information. Consider limiting access to your networking page to a small group of people. Never post your full name, ID number, address, phone number, or account numbers on publicly accessible sites.
Keeping Your Devices Secure
Use Security Software
Install anti-virus software, anti-spyware software, and a firewall. Set your preference to update these protections often.
Avoid Phishing Emails
Never open files, click on links, or download programs sent by strangers.
Be Wise About Wi-Fi
Before you send personal information over your laptop or smartphone on a public wireless network in a coffee shop, library, airport, hotel, or other public place, see if your information will be protected. If you use a secure wireless network, all the information you send on that network should be protected.
Lock Up Your Laptop
Keep financial information on your laptop only when necessary. Don’t use an automatic login feature that saves your user name and password, and always log off when you’re finished. That way, if your laptop is stolen, it will be harder for a thief to get at your personal information.
Read Privacy Policies
* This article is provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal or financial advice.