10 Ways to Protect Your Personal Information
In a world where just about everything is digitized, people are becoming more mindful of protecting their personal information.
Sensitive information like bank statements, logins, account credentials, and more are on the web and can be accessed offline if you lose your mobile phone and someone picks it up.
Here are 10 tips for protecting your sensitive account information, whether you’re on or offline.
What is Considered Personal Information?
Any information that makes an individual’s identity apparent. Examples include:
- Name and Address
- Credit Card, Debit Card or Bank Account Numbers
- Social Security Number
- Medical Insurance Account Numbers and Other Medical Account Numbers
1. Don’t Overshare Online
Be careful of sharing too much personal information online, like your birthday, home address, or other life details which could make it easy for scammers or cheats to take advantage of you.
2. Create Strong and Long Passwords
Create a strong password containing lower and upper-case letters, numbers, and symbols. Change these periodically (every 90 days or so). Don’t include things that a hacker could guess, like your birthday or first and last name, address number, or initials.
If needed, store all your need-to-know password information in a safe password manager tool such as LastPass. Don’t keep passwords in a non-secured space, like your desktop or your iPhone.
3. Check Site Security on Website You Visit
Another option for added security is using a VPN. This tool hides your IP address and location from being tracked. There are also VPN-related security services, like threat protection features, allowing for safer browsing on the internet.
4. Close Down Unused or Idle Online Accounts
Consider all of the online accounts you’ve opened over the years; it’s likely quite a bit. If there are any unused accounts with your bank account information still listed, close them.
The less of your personal information there is online, the better and safer it is for you and your finances. If there are accounts that you’ve forgotten about, dig through your email inbox and search for old email messages from that service or site.
5. Carefully Consider Web Links & Attachments
Be careful when downloading information from the internet, clicking links, or opening attached files. Email phishing scams are common. Things like misspellings or a different email address than normal are indicators that the email is spam.
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), peer-to-peer file-sharing programs can also have downloads with malware in them that gain access to your information. If you’re asked to disable your firewall settings, it’s a clue to how unsafe the program is.
6. Monitor your Account Activity Closely
Regularly monitor your bank account activity. Set up times during the month, each and every week, to look at your checking account & credit card transactions and see if there are any unknown or unusual charges or transactions taking place. If you see suspicious charges, be sure to report them immediately to your bank, credit union or credit card provider.
7. Sign up for eAlerts
You can also setup eAlerts that notify you when certain transactions take place on your account. If suspicious activity occurs, be sure to report it immediately to your financial institution. The quicker it’s reported, the quicker action can be taken to prevent further fraud.
How do I Protect My Personal Information When Offline?
When you’re not on the internet, your information is still vulnerable to general theft. Here are some best practices to do when protecting your personal information in public.
8. Never Leave your Wallet/Purse in your Car
If you decide to leave your wallet or purse in the car, unattended, make sure it’s truly hidden. Try putting it in a glove compartment underneath stacks of paperwork or miscellaneous items. You can also hide it in the trunk, concealing it with sheets.
9. Don't Keep your Social Security Number on you/in your Purse
Once your social security card is stolen, your identity is stolen. It’s critical that you keep your social security number in a lockbox or safe at home. Only keep it on you if you must use it immediately. Have a special spot where you keep it and put it back when finished.
10. Report Lost or Stolen Debit Cards, Credit Cards, or Checkbooks or other Personal Information
If a checkbook, ID, debit card, or credit card is stolen, report it to your bank or credit union immediately. The sooner it’s reported, the better. The card or account can be closed or froze and a new one issued. If other personal information is compromised, the account can be flagged to watch for suspicious activity.
Related Post: 3 Reasons to Keep Your Contact Information Updated
Final Tip: Choose the Right Credit Union to Bank With
Knowing the do’s and don’ts when it comes to protecting your personal information is important — but so is choosing the right credit union.
Look for quality factors when considering banking with a credit union:
- Competitive Rates
- Up-to-Date Technology
- Quality Reputation
For added security and safety, you’ll want a credit union with up-to-date, secure online & mobile banking technologies and applications, as well as liability and insurance to cover your losses should they occur.