Safeguarding Your Personal & Financial Information
Protecting your personal and financial information is very important, yet many of us don’t think about it. The reality is that identity theft is one of America’s fastest growing crimes and we must take measures to ensure our information is secure.
Protecting yourself on the front end is much easier than trying to resolve a breach of your information. Once your information has been compromised, you will need to invest a lot of time and energy to contact the authorities, painstakingly review your credit report and dispute charges. Practicing some of the steps outlined here can help you start thinking about the topic and formulate a plan for the long term.
We’ve outlined some considerations below to keep in mind as you start to explore this topic. We’ve also provided some helpful links to online resources to learn more about this subject and what you need to do in the event that your information has been compromised.
Protect your Social Security Number (SSN).
When services asks for your SSN, ask why they need it and what measures they have in place to keep your information secure.
Read your bank and credit card statement activity on a regular basis.
This can help you keep tabs on your balances and spot fraudulent activity early.
Be cautious when using wireless connections and Wi-Fi networks.
These types of connections often do not encrypt data sent over the internet. When using such a network, only send information to websites that use encryption. Look for the prefix "https" at the beginning of the website’s address. The "s" stands for secure.
When downloading an app, carefully review the permissions to access your information.
Find out what pieces of your information the app is pulling and why. Is this information shared with third parties?
Shred all documents containing your personal information before disposing of them.
Documents such as financial statements, credit card offers, etc., may include your personal information, such as your name, address, SSN, account number or information, and other sensitive data you wouldn't want someone else to be able to use.
Be extremely cautious about sharing your credit card or account numbers.
Don't offer to cash or deposit a check into your bank account for someone else, especially if they offer to pay you, or even if it's someone you know. Check scams are a real and growing problem, and you'll be the one on the hook if that check ends up bouncing or being fraudulent. Do not send your credit card, account numbers, or other personal information over regular email, which is not guaranteed secure. If you absolutely have to provide payment remotely, ask if it's possible to provide the information over the phone, fax, or via an encrypted connection, and ask how your information will be kept secure on the other end.
Keep important personal records in a secure place.
You can get a document lockbox at most hardware stores, or a safe deposit box at a bank. You can store digital information securely on a number of cloud services, but make sure you have strong password protection, and use additional security measure like multi-factor authentication if available.
Review your credit report at least once a year.
There are 3 nationwide credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion). You can request a free credit report from each credit bureau once every 12 months. Order your free reports online at www.annualcreditreport.com.
- Federal Trade Commission: Protecting Your Identity
- Privacy Rights Clearinghouse
- Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Resource page for Identity Theft Victims
- Illinois Attorney General