How Secure is Your Personal Data?
13 Tips for Securing Your Personal Information.
How secure are your devices and you data? With so many news reports about massive data breeches, it is worth checking how your security systems are working. If you are not using any, now is a good time to start. If you already are using a strategy, it might just need a few tweaks. In any case, here are some things you can start with to check how well you are protecting your data.
1. Free annual credit reports. Get an up to date look at where your information is being used to obtain credit. The report will show you what accounts are being reported with your data. Make sure all the accounts reported are actually originated by you. Federal law requires each of the three nationwide consumer credit reporting companies - Equifax, Experian and TransUnion to give you a free credit report every 12 months if you ask for it. Here is the link to request a copy of yours. https://www.annualcreditreport.com/requestReport/landingPage.action
If you have been denied credit in the last 60 days due to information on your credit report you are entitled to a complimentary report. https://www.annualcreditreport.com/cra/index.jsp
Stagger your requests so that every 4 months you are checking a different source, (i.e., Transunion in Jan, Equifax in May and Experian in September) rather than checking all at once you will have the most updated information being reported on your accounts.
Each agency may differ slightly in the data on record, but now you are checking regularly and know if anything concerning is showing on your record.
The credit reporting agencies are:
P.O. Box 105139
Atlanta, GA 30348-5139
Trans Union Corp
P.O. Box 2000
Chester, PA 19016
P.O. Box 2002
Allen, TX 75013
5. Photocopy your credit cards, driver's license, AAA card, health insurance card, passport card and any other vital cards you carry in your wallet, front and back. Keep these copies in a secure place. If you lose your wallet or one of your cards, you will need the account number and the customer service number on the back as well as the answers to your security questions to get the help you need. Most credit cards will have the 800 # to contact them inthe US on the back, but take note there is specific number if you are in the states, and another if you are out of the country. If you should lose your wallet, you will need these numbers to call to notify your credit card companies, banks, the Registry of Motor Vehicles, etc.. Many online password manager programs like LastPass for example, have secure online notes where you can store this information as well. If you are traveling out of the country, consider leaving the information accessible to family at home as well in case of emergency, just be sure it is secure. The last thing you want to encounter is losing your wallet and not knowing what cards you were carrying that you need to notify of the loss.
6. Don’t carry cards you don’t use routinely. Put these cards somewhere safe, and take them with you only if you plan to use them that day. Your recovery process will be much easier if you only lose a card or two than if you lose all 20 cards that you have.
7. Do not carry your Social Security Card with you, memorize the number and keep the card in a safe place. Your Social Security Number should not be used for other forms of ID like you driver’s license, ask the RMV to give you an alternate number. It is just too easy in this technological world for people to use your SSN for fraudulent purposes. Medical offices do not need anything other than your insurance information and an ID proving your identity. When giving out your Social Security Number, be sure it is needed. They may ask for it, but is it needed? What will it be used for, and more importantly, how will they secure this information once you have given it to them. Ask what their policies are before you decide to give out this information.
8. Medicare is in the process of changing from using your Social Security Number as your ID number. This procress is scheduled to be completed by April of 2019. For more information, check out this article. https://www.cms.gov/Outreach-and-Education/Medicare-Learning-Network-MLN/MLNProducts/Downloads/MedicareCard-FactSheet-TextOnly-909365.pdf
9. Be proactive in updating your passwords for all your accounts. It can be tempting to use the same easy to remember password for everything, but this is a very risky behavior. If access is gained with your easy to remember password to one account, you can be sure that it will be tried elsewhere.
Use a secure password manager to keep your password safe, these programs can even generate random secure passwords for you. Password managers make accessing your accounts easy and secure. You can use them to generate and update secure passwords and store them for you. There is one big caveat to using one of these programs…They are guarded by a strong master password. If you forget your password to your account, you are locked out. Do not forget this password and keep it safe!
10. Remove your name from direct mail offers. Visit the Direct Marketing Association web site; https://www.dmachoice.org/, get rid of those pre-approved Credit Card offers. Another option is an app called PaperKarma https://www.paperkarma.com/ PaperKarma is an easy-to-use app that lets you control your paper mailbox from your phone. Simply snap photos of unwanted junk mail (coupons, credit card offers, flyers, catalogs, magazines, yellow/white pages, etc.) and they will try to make it stop. It may not work in all instances, like those generated by the USPS service known as every door direct mail. (EDDM). Again, you may not be able to stop it all, but reducing the flow is certainly a good thing.
If you are currently receiving these offers for credit cards especially, don’t simply drop them in the recycle bin, or you could be inviting identity theft, make sure they are shredded, before going out with the recycling. If you don’t mind receiving them, just be sure to shred before putting them in with the recycling, so no one else will fill them out with a different address and to try to access credit in your name.
11. Lock your cell phone! Most of us do so much related to our jobs on our cell phones now. Lose your cell phone and you are putting all of its data at risk. You even have the option of hiding items from appearing on the lock screen. As our phones become more and more an extension of us, we really need to give some extra attention to security. You don’t want to wait until your phone is lost to think about the security of the data it contains. Newer devices have options for facial recognition, fingerprint recognition, and iris scanning. Go to the settings on your device to see which options you have and choose the one that works for you!
12. If you are sharing a computer that contains your sensitive data, create a guest account (profile). Limit access to only the information they need to see. Password protect your profile as well.
13. Beware of Public WiFi when accessing sensitive information. Considering how we are all constantly connected no matter where we are located, it is important to remember that some private information may be requested of you when you are not in a private location. Do you really want to check on an insurance claim on the open network at a local coffee shop? Do you want to discuss your work issues in public? Do you want to read your credit card number and CCV code out loud in a public space? If you really need to access information of this type consider looking into a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to keep your browsing private.