The identity theft business has grown to $21B per year. Pretty much everyone reading this is susceptible.
Like many of us, I’ve moved most of my files to the cloud, do my banking and investing online, and have gone digital for all my household records. I travel for business quite a bit, and I really want to make sure I’m safe, and my family is safe and secure.
There are a lot of lists for protecting yourself, so I’ve culled my list to just the most important and unique safeguards and backup plans that I use to protect myself. Please share your own in the comments!
- Get a burner email address. This is an email address that you can disclose to anyone and cancel at any time. It’s not the address you give eTrade or your favorite cousins in England! It is the address you give Sports Authority or Godiva when you join their clubs to get freebies. If you get spammed or hacked at that address, who cares!
- Avoid disclosure of any of the following: Account numbers, social security numbers, middle initial, birthdate, mother’s maiden name, passwords, PINs. Especially, don’t write any of these down and hand the paper to anyone!! There should be no reason why the doctor’s office needs your SS#. We just leave it blank or cross it out. No one ever asks.
- Get a shredder. If you don’t have room or time to shred, keep a separate trashcan under your desk, and load it with shreddables. When it gets full, either shred it yourself or take it to a commercial facility. As for what to shred, I put in anything that has more personal information than just name and address. Items with name and address (or less) go into recycling. Everything else, shred.
- Get a fire safe. I have two.
- Create an encrypted USB stick with your most important numbers and documents. For example: social security numbers, bank account numbers and bank phone numbers, property insurance, health insurance, credit card numbers and phone numbers (to rapidly report theft if necessary). Make two copies of the stick. Put one in the fire safe and keep one on your person or close by, especially when you travel, especially if you travel internationally. Here’s a Gizmodo article with specific instructions.
- Every six months or a year, check your credit report. Don’t pay for a free credit report! Each of the three major credit reporting agencies is required to provide a free credit report to you annually. Here’s how to get it: annualcreditreport.com.
- Here’s a tip for protecting your PIN, courtesy of Gail, based on the 2013 Target breach. Did you know that when you use your debit card, you can avoid using your PIN, thereby protecting it from theft? Instead, run the transaction as credit. It takes only a couple seconds more (you may have to sign) but there is typically no benefit for using your PIN. Gas stations are the exception – they generally reward you with $0.10 off per gallon, which you can take, and buy yourself an extra latte every week.
- BONUS TIP! For heaven’s sake, change the admin password on your router!