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Personal Information Security

Posted by Diana E on

Identity theft has become a common occurrence in this age of advanced technology, and damage inflicted by personal information falling into the wrong hands may have devastating consequences for unfortunate victims of the crime. Learning how to keep your private information confidential may help you avoid the misfortunes that can result if you unwittingly allow dishonest persons to acquire your specific information.

Offline Security

Decrease the danger of unscrupulous people gaining access to your personal information by using caution and common sense, even when dealing with trusted organizations or individuals. Divulging your information only to legitimate businesses or agencies is ineffective if those organizations suffer security breaches that can reveal your personal data.

Identity thieves often pose as representatives of lawful agencies or businesses, so if you have any reason to doubt their validity, refuse to give them the information they seek. Instead, phone or email the organization to verify the need for your information, getting the agency’s number or email address from the phone book or a reliable online site. Always assume the request for information is not appropriate if you did not initiate the call or correspondence.

Make a habit of refusing to provide your social security number and other private information to people unless they can prove the request is legitimate and legal. Insist on knowing why they need your information and how they will keep it secure. Businesses may prefer to have your personal data to make their jobs easier, but they will often supply the service you want without requiring you to provide the extra information.

Store your financial records, important documents and other sensitive information in a secure place, preferably locked, in your home. Always keep your purse or wallet in a safe place at home and at work, and keep them secure from visitors, roommates and service people as well. Do not carry your social security card in your wallet, and never use that number for identification purposes.

Retrieve mail from your mailbox as soon as possible after it arrives, and ask the post office to hold your mail any time you will be gone for a few days. Rather than enjoying the convenience of letting the mail carrier pick up your outgoing mail, take it to the post office or a nearby post office collection box.

Shred documents containing your personal information before discarding them. Cross-cut and confetti-cut shredders provide more security because it is possible to reconstruct documents shredded with strip-cut machines.

Online Security

Never click on a link in an email if you have any doubt about the correspondence. Even if it comes from a well-known friend, if anything about it seems out of character, someone may have hacked into your friend’s email account to obtain information from his or her contacts. Do not download programs or open files sent by unknown people or companies. Doing so could expose your computer to a virus or spyware designed to obtain your information and passwords. Be wary about what you post on social networking sites because an abundance of information can be helpful to identity thieves.

Computer Monitoring Software
Firewalls, anti-spyware software and anti-virus software can help protect your computers with more effectiveness when you update the protections often. You can also use encryption software to scramble your online transactions and maintain security for your browser.

Be careful about using your smartphone or laptop in public places that may not have secure wireless networks. An encrypted website safeguards only data sent from that particular site, but a secure network protects all the information sent on that network. Do not use features on your laptop that automatically log you into your accounts, and do not neglect to log off when you finish working with the statements. If someone steals your laptop after you have taken precautions like those, he or she will have difficulty obtaining your personal information.

Permanently remove all personal information from your computers or mobile devices before disposing of them.

Guard your personal information like you protect other valuables because that information can be more precious than gold or silver. If an identity thief benefits from obtaining your information, the cost to you can amount to more than the thief’s gain. Decrease the possibility of being a victim of identity theft by decreasing the number of businesses, agencies and individuals with knowledge of your personal information.

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