It is very difficult in today’s world to keep your personal information private. There is a data breach reported somewhere at least weekly. They wait to tell the public for whatever reason, then they announce it months later. Who know what has happend to your private information during that time.
There are so many things that you could be doing to protect your privacy but it gets overwhelming reading through pages and pages. I wanted to put together a general easy to read list of things you can do to keep your information safe, 15 ways to protect your privacy
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General tips to protect your privacy:
1. Do not provide your social security number unless it’s absolutely necessary. Even if a form you are filling out asks for it leave it blank. Don’t be afraid to ask why they need your social security number. Protect it as much as you can, it’s the key to your identity.
2. Tear up or shred documents containing personal information before throwing them in the garbage or recycling. I use this Address Cover Stamp to cover personal information before putting it in the recycling. Use a shredder for bills, bank statements, credit card receipts, and investment information. Do not give credit card numbers over the phone. Theives are getting pretty crafty these days and you can easily be tricked into giving your credit card number over the phone. Never give it to someone that calls you. Only if you initiated the call. If they are from a legitimate business and really need your card number, tell them you will call them back.
3. Do not carry pin numbers, birth certificates, or passports unless absolutely necessary. I know it’s hard to remember so many numbers and passwords but you shouldn’t have your pin written on the back of your debit card.
4. Be wary when filling out warranty cards, subscription forms, prize entries forms. A lot of times those prize entry forms are used to get your information so they can call and send solicitations. It’s great if you have a P.O. Box to use as an address for those kinds of things.
5. Check with your bank, credit card companies, and any other company that has your personal info. Make sure you tell them you want to opt out of third party solicitations. A lot of companies will sell your information to other companies so they can try to sell you more stuff. It’s nice if they ask you upfront and give you the choice but they usually don’t do that. You have to physically tell them or sometimes it’s a box you can uncheck when you are in your on line account.
6. Remove your name from mailing telemarketing and email lists:
How to opt out of unsolicited credit card offers. 1-888-5-OPT OUT or 888-567-8688 (Be aware, this ask for your SS number)
Sign up for the Do Not Call Registry 1-888-382-1222 or www.donotcall.gov
Contact the Direct Marketing Association www.dmaconsumers.org or 212-768-7277
7. Review your credit card and bank statements every month. Make sure you know what every charge is and what you are being billed for.
8. Be cautious about trial memberships especially if you have to give them your credit card number. Remember you will be billed after the trial period is over, they usually do not remind you, it’s up to you to remember. Make sure when you sign up that you can cancel at any time.
9. Be aware of phone scams. These scammers call you and say they are with the IRS and you owe some crazy dollar amount. They threaten that you will be arrested if you don’t make a partial payment with your credit card over the phone. There are a lot of phone scams, another one is someone is calling from the “warranty department” and your warranty is about to expire so you need to update your payment information. The IRS will never call you for money and your bank or credit card company will never call you and ask you to verify your credit card number. Be careful these guys are ruthless and will do and say anything to get your information.
Protect your privacy online:
10. Create an email specifically for junk and solicitation. When you fill out prize entries use your junk Gmail or Hotmail address whatever you prefer. Some places ask for your email at the register. You have the right to ask them why and you don’t have to give out any information. If you do want to get on their email list to get coupons or specials deals, use your junk email address.
11. Password protect everything. Computers, tablets, phones, any digital device. If it’s possible use 2 factor authentication on devices. Remember if any of these items are lost or stolen and they aren’t password protected, they are a huge source of personal information.
12. Be careful about what you share on social media. Make your accounts visible to friends only unless you have a business or a page that you manage. Every once in a while go into your privacy settings and make sure nothing has changed and you are only sharing to the people that you want to share with.
13. Be careful when you download software. Make sure it is from a reputable source that you trust. You should have some kind of virus or malware scanner on your computer or device. Read through reviews if possible. You’ll be able to see if there is negative feedback or warnings. Maybe it includes sneaky bloatware in it, that is something you would want to know.
14. Use only secure wi-fi when checking bank accounts or other accounts that you have to log in to. Avoid public wi-fi, it’s not encrypted so anyone can see log-ins, passwords, credit card, or bank account numbers.
15. Be aware of online phishing scams, I have recieved so many in my email accounts. They look like they are coming from Netflix or Amazon or some legitimate business and they want you to click on the link to update your payment information. They will also send an email that looks like a huge order was placed through your Amazon account. It will say if you didn’t authorize this order you need to call this number or click this link to get to the fraud department. Always look at the URL, it will be some crazy address with a bunch of letters and numbers. These phishing scams get more sophisitcated looking all the time, some people get roped in easily. Always question everything, don’t even click on the link if you think it looks suspicious.
You can go to the Federal Trade Commission site to learn more about phishing scams and even report them.
Conclusion, if it doesn’t feel right don’t do it.
Unfortunately we live in a world where these scammers can get to us in so many different ways, phones, social media, emails, texts. We always have to be aware and question everything. My only advice is if it doesn’t feel right, if you get that gut feeling that something is off, it’s probably not legit.
It’s always a good idea to have a really good shredder to shred junk mail and documents that contain personal information. Here are some really good cross-cut shredders.
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