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Safer internet day 2017: How do you protect your personal information?

by Brian Cody

Safer Internet Day is fast approaching and on February 7th online users are being encouraged to unite to make the online world a safer place with this year’s theme being “Be the change, unite for a better internet”.

Have you considered how you can keep your family's personal information safe in the digital world?

In 2015, 429 million identities were exposed by identity thieves who targeted several trusted institutions. That’s a massive amount of personal information and shows the importance of taking extra steps to protect your identity - and knowing what information you need to safeguard - as the best way to prevent identity theft from happening to you.

But what types of data should you be protecting?

Low Sensitivity

Among the information considered “low risk” in regard to personal information sensitivity is your full name, address, and phone number.

Medium Sensitivity

Information regarded as “medium” in terms of sensitivity includes your date of birth, place of birth, and mother’s maiden name.

High Sensitivity

The most sensitive information to protect includes your bank account numbers, Tax information, pin numbers, credit card numbers, and passwords.

Other Sensitive Information

Additional sensitive information likely to attract identity thieves includes your usernames, places of employment, medical records, employment history, residential history, children’s names and dates of birth, and even special anniversary dates.

What You Can Do Offline?

There are a lot of ways you can protect your information offline as well as online. Offline tasks include locking all financial documents and records within your home in a safe place. Consider investing in a small safe to further protect important documents.

It also helps to limit the amount of information you carryon your person. Take only what you need on a daily basis, such as your identification, ATM card, and credit cards, but only the ones you use on a regular basis. If you have a credit card in your wallet that you never use, put it in a safe place.

Never keep your tax information in your wallet, and leave any other bank information at home. And unless you’re paying a visit to the doctor, leave your health insurance card at home as well.
Another way to best protect yourself offline is to shred sensitive information, including credit card offers and applications, receipts, insurance forms, doctorscorrespondence, checks, bank statements, and old credit cards.

If you don’t need it anymore, get rid of it, but not before shredding. Identity thieves are notorious for looking through trash and applying for credit cards in other people’s names, so ensure that doesn’t happen to you. These days a good paper shredder is pretty inexpensive so it’s a healthy exercise getting into a routine of securely disposing of all important documents that are no longer needed.

What You Can Do Online

Keeping your information secure online involves removing any pertinent data that’s stored on your computer before you get rid of it. Just because the device is on its last legs doesn’t mean that all personal information on it is on its last legs too. The same is true of your mobile devices.

Using strong passwords is important to protect your information online, so avoid using the same, easy-to-crack passwords, no matter how much you love your pet!. Infuse each password with numbers and symbols to make it as difficult as possible to figure out.

Another way to safeguard your personal information online is to encrypt your data. Keeping your browser secure via encryption software guards online transactions, as it scrambles information sent over the Internet. Look for a “lock” icon on your browser status bar to make certain the information you send is protected. You should also use quality security software on all of your devices, and remember to update them regularly.

Protecting your information online also means not oversharing on social media. Make your Facebook page private, and do the same with Twitter and Instagram if you have the habit of posting about where you are and what you’re doing all the time. The less you share on social media, the less chance there is of someone taking advantage.

Wi-Fi is another method by which identity thieves and hackers can steal your information, so stick to protected Wi-Fi options instead of using a different one every day at a different coffee shop. Consider using a VPN to access public Wi-Fi networks as this will give you further protection from those that want to exploit your data. Stay alert of phishing emails as well, and know what to look for. In other words, don’t ever open a file sent from someone you don’t know. If it’s important they will contact you again.

Know what data is the most sensitive, and on Safer internet
this year practice safe and secure digital experiences to keep your personal information safe in the future.

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