In Life at Home, Tips & Advice

5 Steps to Protect Your Personal Information

Woman typing on computer

Engagement pictures on Instagram. Job relocation announcements on Facebook. Birthday celebrations shared over Snapchat. Whether it’s a simple picture of your home decorated for the holidays or a video highlighting your wedding day, not much is kept off social media these days.

While it’s fun to update your friends and family on your latest adventures, you could potentially be oversharing and aiding thieves looking to steal your personal information. It’s important to be cognizant of what you’re posting online to protect yourself from identity theft and to ensure your information won’t be leaked.

Here are 5 tips to help keep your sensitive information safe:

1. Social Media – Think Before You Post

While you may want to keep your friends and family in the loop, it’s essential to maintain a profile clean of all personal information. Before sharing, think to yourself, “can an identity thief use this information to access any of my accounts?” If yes, choose information security over likes and opt out of sharing. Oversharing on social media includes posting sensitive information such as your address, full birthday (month/day/year), license plate number, credit status, driver’s license number, passport information, social security number or your school’s name.

While Facebook offers an extensive “about me” section, remember, it’s not mandatory. Leave these fields empty or choose smart answers such as listing your birthday month and day, while leaving out the year. Simply list the state you reside in, as opposed to your home town. These simple choices can help protect you in the long run.

Most importantly, review your privacy settings and make sure you know all your social media “friends.” While having the most Facebook friends within your squad may serve as an ego boost, it also decreases the control you hold over the information you post. While social media plays a large part in personal information security, keeping your personal information offline extends far beyond social media. There are many additional measures you can take to protect yourself.

2. Program Automatic Software Updates to Occur

While it’s easy to push the “remind me later” button when a software update is prompted, it’s essential that you keep your operating system’s software up-to-date at all times. To avoid lapses between updates, and for ease of mind, turn on your computer’s automatic updates. Keeping your firewall, Java and Flash updated will assist in keeping viruses and hackers out.

3. Laptops — Lock Them Up

Have you ever found yourself working in a coffee shop, getting up to use the restroom but wondering what to do with your laptop? Chances are you just left it unattended. While the customers at Starbucks may look trustworthy, you can never be too sure. Instead, err on the side of caution and lock it up. Password protection can assist in deterring unwanted guests and should be the first course of action. However, make sure to add a laptop combination lock to your Christmas list this year. They can be purchased on Amazon Prime for as low as $6 and can save you a lot of time, money and stress.

4. Free Wi-Fi Doesn’t Always Mean Safe Wi-Fi

Living in a technology world, there is a “free Wi-Fi” sign just about everywhere you go. You can find it at the airport, grocery store, mall, coffee shop, frozen yogurt stand, book store and universities. While free Wi-Fi may be perfect for browsing your Facebook feed or catching up on the latest Stranger Things episode, the information you send over this connection may not be secure. Before shopping online, logging into your bank account, or accessing your latest credit card statement, make sure you are utilizing a secure wireless connection to ensure all your information is protected.

5. The Little Computer in Your Back Pocket

From Apple Pay to Chase Mobile, the little computer in your back pocket is filled with more personal information than ever. As technology continues to increase, society seems to trust smartphones to hold personal information more and more. This comes with higher risk, however.

Paying for your Sonic drink with Apple Pay or depositing your pay check using your iPhone may make your day-to-day life simpler. But to avoid identity theft you will want to take precautions to protect yourself and the information your phone holds. Always make sure to utilize the PIN/password function on your phone and refrain from sharing this code with others. Keep your phone’s operating system up-to-date and avoid leaving your phone unattended. Likewise, take advantage of the applications offered by your phone’s operating system such as Android Device Manager or Find My iPhone.

According to Javelin Strategy & Research, over 13.1 million people experienced identity theft in 2015 and an alarming 15.4 million in 2016. Protect yourself by following these simple everyday precautions. Stay informed, make smart choices and stay safe.

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