Data breaches seem to happen far too often, and identity theft is also more common. Here are a few things you can do to help protect you and your loved ones.
Secure Your Home
Store your valuable documents and beef up home security. Devices such as security cameras, motion detectors, window locks, and strong deadbolts deter criminals and, you could qualify for an insurance discount.
Shred Unwanted Documents
Don’t toss paperwork with personal information into the garbage or recycling – shred it first. Thieves do sift through bins and it’s amazing how much information they can receive from bank and credit card statements, and other personal documents.
Use Security Software
Many people do not use anti-virus, anti-malware, and firewalls, despite the continual press regarding hacks, ransomware, and identity theft. Free programs offer limited protection, so consider paid versions for up-to-date, comprehensive protection.
Protect Your Mobile Devices
Don’t forget to protect for your tablet, cellphone, or laptop, too. Reports from the major security companies like Symantec and Kaspersky indicate exponential growth in mobile hacks. Once they’re in your mobile device, they can access additional information through connected apps and programs.
Access Safe Websites
Many web browsers now insist companies use an https URL otherwise they’ll flag them as unsafe. The S indicates that the website uses a security certificate that encrypts data. Always check for the security lock next to the URL before you enter any personal information into a website.
Backup Important Files
Cloud storage provides an inexpensive, off-site location for backup files. Alternatively, buy an external drive and backup your important data regularly. If you rely on this data for your work, backup daily.
Avoid Public Wi-Fi
Sure it’s free, but it is often unprotected too. If you tap into public Wi-Fi, the data isn’t encrypted and you risk exposing your user names, passwords, and financial information.
Use Strong Passwords
When you access many accounts using a password, you may rely on a single password so you can remember it or create an easily hacked, simple password. Studies show “12345,” “password,” and birthdates are still common.
You can use a program such as Dashlane, Lastpass, or Keepass to store passwords. Then you create one strong password to access all your accounts.
Use Spam Filters
Email providers offer spam filters to separate potentially dangerous emails from actual messages. They quarantine messages and you can add email addresses to the list.
Don’t open email attachments from unknown senders and do not click on links to reset your password. If you receive a message from a company asking you to do this, go to their website directly.
Use Two Factor Authentication
Many accounts offer two factor authentications to ensure the person logging into your account is actually you. Use them whenever possible – they send you a code via your cellphone to confirm your login and notify you of unusual activity, too.
Monitor Bank and Credit Card Statements
Review your bank and credit card statements for unusual activity. Don’t leave mail sitting in your mailbox while you’re away.
In addition, you should review your credit reports at least once a year, too. You can order it free from annualcreditreport.com. You can also place fraud alerts on your credit reports which notify you of any unusual activity, such as applying for new lines of credit.
Protect Your Child’s Identity
Children are often targets of identity theft for several reasons. First, they don’t have blemishes on their credit. Second, the identity theft can go unnoticed for many years.
Protect your child’s Social Security number. They don’t need it, unless your child applies for credit. Ask the school, your doctor, and others how they protect personal data.
Educate your child about safe online habits and mobile security. Instruct them not to include personal data on social media. Ensure their smartphone, tablet, laptop, and media players use a password or PIN and they update the software.
Finally, request their credit report when your child’s approaching their 16th birthday. Check for anomalies and don’t presume only strangers hack. Friends, relatives, and former roommates may access personal data if your child doesn’t follow proper protocols.
Your Rhode Island homeowner’s insurance policy may include identity theft coverage, or you may need to buy an endorsement or stand-alone policy. If you’re unsure, give us a call.