Identity theft affects millions of people each year, and it’s easy to let your guard down on and offline. As COVID-19 related scams are on the rise, it’s important to keep your personal information protected as best as possible. Thankfully, there are proven ways to keep yourself at a lesser risk of these problems.
Protect Your Information Securely Offline
Remember to lock your financial documents and records in a safe place at home, and when you are at work, keep your wallet or purse locked in a secure area.
When you go out in public places, limit what you carry around. Take only essentials items such as your license/identification card, credit and/or debit card(s), etc. Do not bring your Social Security number out with you. Rather than carry around your Medicare card, make a copy of the card and then black out all but the last four digits on this copy.
Before sharing your information at work, a doctor’s office, your child’s school, etc. ask why they need these details, what they will be used for, how it will be safeguarded, and what should happen if you decide not to release this information.
Shred any receipts, credit offers, credit applications, checks, bank statements, and any other similar documents you no longer need. By prospering disposing these items and more, you’re reducing risk of these items falling into the wrong hands.
Protect Your Information Securely Online
Be sure you know who is receiving your personal and/or financial information. Do not give out personal information over the phone, through the mail, or over the Internet unless you know who you are dealing with. Do not open emails or click on links from addresses you do not recognize.
When you dispose of an old phone or computer, first delete and remove all of the personal information stored in that device. Check the owner’s manual, service provider’s website, etc. to ensure you have wiped the device completely clean with your personal details.
Be sure to keep your browser secure when you’re online. When making transactions online, use encryption software that will jumble up the information you send over the internet. A “lock” icon on the status bar of your internet browser confirms that your info will be safe and secure when transmitted. It’s recommended to check that the “lock” is present before you send any personal or financial details online.
Keeping Your Devices Secure
There are a few useful tips that are beneficial in keeping your identity secure. Install and use anti-virus software, anti-spyware software, and a firewall. These types of digital platforms will protect against intrusions and infections that can compromise your computer files or passwords.
As mentioned before, do not open files or emails, click on links, or download programs sent by unknown sources. By opening a file from someone you don’t know, you could expose your computer to a virus or spyware that captures your passwords and other possible information stored in that device.
Be cautious about public Wi-Fi networks. Before you send personal information via laptop or smartphone on a public wireless network in an airport, coffee shop, library, or any public place, check if your information will be protected. Using an encrypted website protects only the information you send to and from that website. If you’re using a secure wireless network, all the details you send on that network are protected.
We don’t know if or when an identity theft crisis will occur, but you can keep your personal details more secure by taking necessary action to protect your identity. For more information and tips on keeping your personal information secure, check out the Federal Trade Commission