Electronic theft of personal information is the fastest-growing crime in the United States, with more than two billion personal records stolen worldwide in 2016. Protecting your personal information is a key component to reducing the potential that your information may be stolen.
There are four main ways to ensure that your information is safe:
- Know who you share information with
- Store or dispose of your personal information in a secure way
- Ask questions before deciding to share your personal information
- Maintain appropriate security on your computers and other electronic devices
Keeping Your Personal Information Secure
- Be Alert to Impersonators
- Make sure you know with certainty who is getting your personal or financial information. Don’t give out this type of information by phone, through the mail or over the Internet unless you have initiated the contact or know who you are dealing with.
- If a company sends you an email asking you to provide any specific personal information, do not click links in the email. Instead, look up the company’s website, visit it directly and contact them via their customer service.
- Securely Store and Dispose Personal Information
- Before you dispose of a computer or mobile device, permanently delete all information prior to disposal.
- Lock your financial documents and records in a safe place.
- Shred any receipts, bank statements, etc. which contain personal or financial information when you no longer need them.
- Encrypt your data. Always store personal information in an encrypted format. Be aware of secure sites in your browser by locating the lock icon.
- Keeping Your Devices Secure
- Use security software. Install anti-virus, anti-spyware software and a firewall. Set the preferences on these items to install updates automatically and often.
- Avoid phishing emails. Don’t open files, click links or provide any information within any requests that you did not explicitly request yourself.
- Be wise about public Wi-Fi. Avoid using sites which contain your personal or financial information when connected to publicly-available, unsecured wireless networks.
- Keep passwords private. Use different and complex passwords for any sites which expose your private information. Be sure to include special characters, numbers and a mix of lower and upper-case characters to assure password complexity.
Taking the steps above will drastically reduce the risk that you will be a victim of a cyber crime. Though the technology controls such as anti-virus software are effective, paying close attention to the details above and being vigilant in your technology usage is the most effective measure.