5 Tips for Keeping Your Information Secure
In an increasingly digital world, it has never been more important to safeguard your personal data against theft. These five tips can help you keep your personal information secure.
1. Practice Good Password Safety
While some hackers use sophisticated techniques to steal data, many do not need to, because their victims do not practice good password safety. Choose a strong password for all of your devices and accounts. Make it something difficult to guess, but not so difficult that you need to write it down to remember it. Avoid using common words or anything, such as your last name or birthdate, that could be easily associated with you. Include numbers and special characters where allowed. Never give anyone else your password. Avoid using the same password for multiple accounts. Take advantage of passwordless authentication options where available.
2. Keep Your Information Secure Offline
Protecting your online data gets the most attention, but it is also important to protect your offline data. If you keep important financial documents at home, lock them in a safe or file cabinet. Shred any documents that you are throwing out. If you carry a wallet or purse to work, lock it up when you do not have it with you, but do not leave it in your car. Do not carry around any personal information you do not need to have with you.
Whenever someone, such as your employer or doctor's office, asks for personal information, ask them why they need it and how they will protect it. Shred receipts, credit card applications and other documents with your personal information on them. Destroy the labels on your prescription medication bottles before throwing them away. Take your mail directly to the post office, rather than mailing it from your home mailbox and ask the post office to hold your mail if you will not be home for an extended period. Opt-out of prescreened offers for credit and insurance.
3. Watch Out for Scammers
Scammers often try to obtain personal information by pretending to represent someone, such as your bank, who might have a legitimate need for your information. These scams are often conducted through e-mail, called phishing, on websites, called spoofing, or over the phone. Legitimate companies will not make unsolicited requests for your personal information. Never give out your passwords, social security number or other information over the phone or on the internet, unless you initiated the contact and you are sure the person you are speaking with is legitimate. Do not click on the links in e-mails or websites asking for your information. These links may download malware to your computer. If you are unsure if a communication or website is legitimate, call the company's customer service number and ask before clicking on anything. Never input your login information on a site that you are not sure is legitimate and if you already have, contact the company immediately.
4. Dispose of Electronic Devices Safely
Whether you are planning on selling an old device, donating it or throwing it out, you need to make sure you wipe out your personal information first. Simply deleting the data on a computer hard drive can still leave some of your information accessible to people who know how to recover it. Use a utility program designed to destroy the data on your drive before disposing of the computer. Check the user manual or website for your smartphones and tablets to find out how to permanently delete your information from the device, before you get rid of it.
5. Avoid Overshare
Do not put your personal information, such as your birthdate, on social media. Resist the temptation to participate in "games" that reveal your information.
With so much of your personal data out there, it is both more important and more difficult than ever to protect your data. However, these five tips can help you avoid identity theft and other misuses of your personal data.