Protecting yourself

13 ways to protect your financial data

Emily Crone

Editor’s note: Emily’s away on a European vacation, but wrote a blog item or two in advance, so that you’d remember her while she tries to figure out how to tip a waiter in farthings, shillings and pence.

Data breaches that leak sensitive information of millions of consumers are happening all the time, even with security safeguards in place. What extra steps can you take to protect your financial information from fraud and identity theft? InsideCRM provides 50 excellent tips on taking control of your data. Here are 13 of the tips most related to credit with some additional information from me.

1.  Freeze your credit report. This is a way to block access to your credit, and you are given a PIN so only you can unfreeze the account. While your report is frozen, nobody else can obtain your credit report, hurt your credit score or apply for credit in your name.

2. Check your credit report regularly. This will alert you to mistakes and will let you know if someone else is using credit in your name.

3. Make sure charities are legitimate before you make a donation. Do a background check on the organization to confirm they are a legitimate nonprofit and not a scam to get your credit card information. One helpful resource is a list the IRS publishes of registered organizations that are eligible to receive tax-deductible donations.

4. Don’t save credit card shopping profiles online. While it can make the checkout process quicker, your information is susceptible to breaches. Either make sure that an e-commerce site is secure before you save your information, or do not save your information at all.

5. If a bank automatically uses your Social Security number as your PIN number or password, reset it right away — especially if you will be managing your account online.

6. When you are finished banking online, log out — don’t just close your browser. Your information is still active online. “Brian Krebs of The Washington Post reports that you may not be reimbursed for the money stolen through an online account if you do not have anti-virus or anti-hacking software installed on your computer,” InsideCRM says.

7. Do not write your PIN number on your ATM card or anything else in your wallet. If your wallet is stolen, the thief will have easy access to your cash.

8. Use a credit card for online purchases. Credit cards offer more legal protection than debit cards when shopping over the Internet.

9. Drop off checks, taxes and other packages with sensitive information at the post office or an official mailbox so the envelopes do not sit unattended.

10. Don’t write your Social Security number on checks, and if a store employee asks to write it on a check, decline. If he or she insists you must, ask to speak with a manager.

11. Write checks with gel pens. “Bruce Schneier, of the blog Schneier on Security, maintains that ‘only one type of ink, the kind in gel pens, has been found to be counterfeit-proof to acetone or any other chemical used in check washing,'” InsideCRM reports.

12. Don’t use your mother’s maiden name as a password. That is often the piece of information businesses and credit bureaus use to verify your identity. If you use this name as a password, if stolen, it can grant a thief access to your finances.

13. Don’t carry all of your important documents with you. If your wallet or purse is stolen and you had your Social Security card and all your other identification cards in it, your identity can easily be stolen. Leave your Social Security card in a safe place at home.

For more information on protecting yourself, take a look at our privacy suite, PrivacyWise.

See related: Do you know what a credit freeze is?, The identity theft and meth connection

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