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Protecting Your Personal Information

We have a lot of information online.  Whether it’s banking history or social media, our online presence is out there.Womans eye with futuristic digital data around it

Unfortunately, we have a lot to protect from identity thieves who use this information to pose as us.

Don’t let yourself become a victim of identity theft.

Use these tips to keep your identity, home and finances safe from others.

Be Careful What You Post on Social Media

A lot of people enjoy talking about what they’re doing “in the moment” online these days. This can be fun but keep track of what you say.

Update your privacy settings for all your accounts.  Even with the strictest settings, however, potential hackers can find out what you are doing.

Now, for the of course, that’s ridiculous tip: Don’t put any extremely personal information, such as your bank account, social security or cellphone number into a post.

Here is one that many people struggle with: don’t always mention where you are (such as when you’re going out for the night or leaving for a vacation) because this gives everyone an easy way of knowing where to find you or when you’re away from home.

Also, monitor your children’s social media. While you may not be posting, they could. A photo of your child in front of the house can reveal a lot of information related to your address. Imagine what that coupled with vacation photos and an announcement that you are out of town for a week could lead to.

Talk about what you’ve done after the fact, not while it’s going on. Make sure your children understand this too.

Be Wary of Online Shopping

Online shopping is convenient and useful for many people. Make sure you’re safe when shopping online.

The website should be properly encrypted so that it cannot be hacked easily. If you don’t see an encryption key (aka Https:// in front of the website) in the address bar, that’s a red flag.

Also, make sure you only shop at sites you trust or sites that have credentials such as customer reviews or a physical location.

Additionally, do not “store” information on a site because you use it often.

It might seem convenient, but if they’re hacked, your information is now in the hands of someone else.

Also, consider using a credit card just for online shopping. That way, if your card information is compromised, cancelling it won’t affect your bank account and other purchases as badly as a card you use for other things. Some credit card companies will even create one time use credit card numbers for you to use online too.

Destroy Old Documents

Don’t just throw away old receipts or billing statements.  There are people out there willing to parse through trash, hoping to find documents with personal information.

When you dispose of old documents with sensitive information, use a shredder first.  If you don’t have one, tear them up.  Smaller documents can also be doused and torn up wet.

If you have a larger quantity of documents you need to get rid of, look for a community shredding day too. Some companies that specialize in shredding will set up a shredding day where you can bring your papers. In addition, some community recycling facilities offer free access to a shredder too.

There’s also the “two bag” approach of putting parts of the document after it’s been torn or shredded in one bag and the other parts in another. Pieces can be put back together by someone patient enough, but this trick makes it harder to have all the pieces.

Keep Documents Securely Locked Up

Any personal information you keep in the house should be stored.  Invest in a safe with a password so that in the event someone breaks into your home, they can’t take these documents.  This safe should be fireproof so that it can’t simply be destroyed and heavy enough that they can’t just walk out with it.

Stay Aware When in Public

Shield monitors such as ATMs or credit card readers when you type in them.  If someone can see you entering this information, they can use it to gain access to your personal accounts.

Also, be aware of what you say in public. Making important, private phone calls in a public venue is risky because it’s possible for someone to listen in on what you’re saying.

Using public WI-FI networks for personal online functions, such as banking, should also be avoided. If anyone can get on the WI-FI, they’re on the same network as you and can try to hack their way into the account your accessing. “Secured” networks that freely hand out the password should be avoided as well.

There has also been an increase in people putting out what looks like a business WI-FI but it’s really someone else attempting to steal your information.

Keep yourself safe by being smart and not giving thieves the chance to steal your information.