First 30 Days Blog

27 nov

7 Ways to Protect Your Identity

RobertCordrayThere was a time when the worst thing that a criminal could steal from you was your property. They might get a hold of your wallet, or maybe make off with your car, or even break into your home and ransack the place, but at the end of the day, you’d be able to take inventory of your losses and move on with your life.

However, in the last few decades a different type of theft has really begun to manifest itself. Where once criminals were content to steal possessions, they now set their sights much higher; criminals of today steal entire identities. Identity theft has become such a problem that a recent report issued by Javelin Research estimates that nearly 6% of all adults in the United States are affected by it every year in some way and things are only getting worse. Thankfully, there are ways to protect yourself against those groups and individuals who would misuse use your personal information. Here are seven ways to secure your data against identity theft.

1. Be smart with your mail

Although much of the world now runs on the internet, the U.S. Postal Service is still widely utilized. Unfortunately, it can also be easily compromised—especially when dealing with your home mailbox. Be sure to empty your mailbox every day, preferably soon after it is delivered so that passing criminals can’t steal personal information (such as are contained in credit and bank statements). When mailing sensitive data or checks, do so from the local post office.

2. Never give out information to anyone who contacts you

One way that criminals steal identities is by contacting prospective victims and claiming to be a legitimate business/organization. For instance, they may claim to be your bank, and request that you give them your social security number so that that can “verify your identity.” Never give out any information to any person who contacts you. Instead, if you believe that the issue is legitimate, contact the organization yourself and verify that they were the ones who called you (and if they were, let them know how irresponsible it is to for them to do so; most legitimate groups would never call a person and request sensitive information). Be especially wary of emails and always hone your online threat intelligence; many cybercriminals have designed messages that mimic the look and feel of legitimate communications, even going so far as to redirect to official looking (but fake) websites.

3. Keep your info off of social networks

Many people seem to think that just because their Facebook page (or Twitter, or whichever popular social media site they prefer) is populated by ‘friends,’ it’s okay to share sensitive information. But how well do you really know the people who have access to your page? Besides, more people can view your social media info than you probably are aware of. Play it safe, and keep any specific information about yourself (date of birth, mother’s maiden name, information relating to family members, etc.) off of your page. Additionally, be sure to set any privacy setting to the highest possible level of security. Just remember: if you don’t want the world to see it, don’t post it.

4. Keep an eye on your credit

Credit card information is one of the easiest—and most profitable—targets for identity criminals. And while some card thieves may set off red flags with the bank by making multiple large purchases in a short amount of time, the more clever one are careful to remain under the radar by slowly racking up charges over the space of several months. Be sure that you always check your credit card statements regularly, and are able to account for each and every charge made. Also, make note of any statements that don’t arrive on time, as stolen statements can provide criminals with valuable account numbers.

5. Be stingy with your data

Many businesses today like to gather as much personal information about their customers as possible. They use this information for special offers, buyer’s clubs, and directed advertising, which is generally harmless in and of itself. However, should any of that information be stolen from the company (as sometimes happens), it is often the customers who face the negative consequences. When possible, refuse to give out specific personal information to salespeople or businesses. If you absolutely must provide your data, be sure to review the privacy policy. Inform the business that you don’t want your information given out (or sold) to anyone else.

6. Keep your computer protection up to date

You might be shocked to learn just how much personal information can be extracted from a personal computer. Be sure to keep you virus software active and up-to-date, and exercise caution when surfing the web. When dealing with online sites, be sure that they have been verified as safe to visit. Many organizations will also use tools such as packet capture data to ensure the safety of their customers and visitors.

7. Only use strong and unique passwords

It may be annoying to have to remember several different passwords, but that doesn’t mean that you should put all of your eggs into one basket. Make sure that you have unique passwords for every account so that if one gets hacked, you’ll be able to limit the amount of damage done. Also, never use simple-to-guess passwords. Instead, make your passwords an unintelligible mix of letters, numbers, and any other acceptable symbols. For the password hint questions that some companies require you to supply, don’t choose anything that can be easily guessed or publicaly researched. You might even consider misspelling your hint answer, so that even if a hacker guesses it correctly, he won’t be able to access your accounts.

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Posted by Robert Cordray on November 27th, 2013 in Technology | 0 comments

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