You’d never hand a stranger your tax return or post your bank information online. But small habits you may not think about could be putting your personal information in danger. Read on for ways to protect your privacy online.
Stay secure online
Free Wi-Fi is great, right? Not so fast. To keep information secure on your computer, you’ll need to be careful about the Wi-Fi you use. Untrusted networks can be rife with cyber thieves looking to steal your information. If you work remotely or often access the internet in public spots — coffee shops, airports, hotels, restaurants — you could be a target.
As a rule, don’t transmit sensitive information through an unsecure website (look for HTTPS at the beginning of the hyperlink), and turn off network sharing options.
If you often use public internet networks, consider a virtual private network (VPN) connection. VPNs establish a private network across a public network, securing the data you send and receive.
Safeguard your devices
Think a step ahead of enterprising thieves. If your phone or laptop were stolen, what would the thief have access to?
- Unprotected password spreadsheets
- Auto-logins or saved passwords for financial institutions
- Tax or other government documents that include your Social Security number
Up your security by password protecting your devices, then securing any documents you don’t want prying eyes to find. Resist the temptation to save your login information on your browser, and enable two-factor authentication — where you receive a text or email with a code needed to log in — where you can. It’s a bit more hassle, but could save you trouble in the long run.
Send passwords smarter
You know you shouldn’t email your credit card info, but where do you draw the line? Would you text a friend your Spotify login? Share your Amazon account? If you plan on sharing a password to a service, change it to something random not used for any other website or login.
Your safest bet is sharing over the phone or in person. If your spouse forgot the bank login, give him or her a call. If that’s not an option, a simple technique is breaking it up over various forms of communication.
Leave out context (don’t start your text or email with “Here’s the bank info!”), then send the username via text and the password via email, or vice versa.
Don’t underestimate the power of paper
Though digital theft is in the spotlight these days, scammers aren’t above poking through trash cans or rifling through mail to find sensitive information. It’s just junk, you might think. But your mail could contain enough info for a thief to do real damage.
Think twice before tossing mail in the recycle bin. Invest in a shredder, or store potentially sensitive documents and take them periodically to a shredding service — check your local office supply store.
You should shred anything that contains your full name and/or signature, account numbers (any bills or statements), Social Security number, medical or legal information, or any financial information.
We get it: Creating and remembering secure passwords is a pain. It’s tempting to cycle through a couple of options, and clicking “remember” on your computer feels like a no-brainer. But your password habits matter.
Most websites, especially those that store secure information, have upped password standards to keep them hard to guess — and hard to remember. Resist the temptation to keep a written list (you can bet an intruder will snag that list from your desk). If you keep a password spreadsheet to keep everything straight, make sure it’s encrypted and stored in a secure place, like Dropbox.
Consider saving yourself the worry and hassle with a password management system. These services — LastPass, 1Password, KeePass — help you create and store safe passwords, online and locally.
The same is true for PIN or access codes you use for debit or credit cards. Avoid numbers someone trying to access your account would have no trouble finding: your birthday, your address or the last digits of your phone number.
Want to add another layer of protection? Talk to your local Farm Bureau agent about adding our Identity Services and Fraud Expense Coverage to your Farm Bureau homeowners, farm/ranch, and other property or liability insurance policy.