Everyone has heard of identity theft, ransomware, data breaches, and spyware. However, no one ever thinks they’ll be taken by one of them. Unfortunately, these are becoming more and more common. It is more important than ever to safeguard your financial information, especially if you access your finances online.
The following are ten quick ways to ensure the safety and security of your personal information, both on and offline.
Secure Your Hardware
It is important that you make sure the security protocols are up to date, ensure your security software is always kept updated and running, and that you password protect any device that you handle your finances on. For example, if you have a banking app on your phone or computer, you should make sure you have your device’s password protected with a code that is not easily guessable.
Beware of Public Settings
You should never use unsecured wifi connections for anything that requires a password. This means, that instead of doing your online banking at your local coffee shop, you should wait until you arrive back at home and can use your password-protected wifi.
Also, most of us do our spending using either a debit card or a credit card. When you have these cards on you, it is important that you store them in either an RFID-blocking wallet or an RFID-blocking card sleeve that can fit in your regular wallet. This way, your cards are not scannable to hackers that may be trying to access your personal information.
Use Secure Passwords – And Never The Same One Twice
It is important that you set passwords for your financial accounts that are difficult to guess. For the longest time, I was the type of person who used the exact same password for every account. Thankfully, I have since changed this. Using the same passwords makes it extremely easy for hackers to access your information on multiple different platforms.
It is also important that you don’t use simple passwords. Simple passwords are passwords that are easy to guess, such as your birthday or your pet’s name. If you are using iOS devices, when creating a password, your device will offer to create a secure password. These passwords often consist of letters (both uppercase and lowercase), symbols and numbers. They are very difficult to crack if crackable at all.
If you don’t use iOS, there are several websites that will create secure passwords for you. However, you will have to write them down or store them in an app as they are nearly impossible to remember if you use a different password for all your accounts (which is recommended).
Another recommendation is to change your passwords every ninety days. This way, hackers are less likely to be able to access your accounts.
Secure Your Apps
If you access your finances via apps on your phone or computer, it is recommended that you choose the highest security settings available, and make sure these settings are enabled at all times. It is beneficial to check occasionally that your security settings are still working at the level that you had them originally set at.
Always Encrypt Your Data
If you access your finances via a web browser, you want to make sure that your data is safe before you enter your login information. If you look at the web address bar, on the left-hand side, there should be a small lock logo. This is a dana encryption lock. You want to be sure that this is either highlighted green or shows a locked position before you enter your information. This ensures that your information is safe and secured. If it shows as red, yellow, or an unlocked position, it’s best that you don’t enter any personal information or login credentials, as they may not be secure.
Limit Social Sharing
This one can be a bit difficult, as so much of our lives are shared on social media platforms. This can be fine in most situations, however, if you overshare, criminals may be able to use the information you post to access your finances. For example, if you happened to set a security check question on your banking app to “what was your first pet’s name?”, and you regularly post photos of the said pet along with their name, hackers could easily access the information needed to reset your passwords and access your accounts. Make sure you don’t give criminals the answers to your financial challenge questions via social media – even if it’s done unintentionally. Be intentional with what you post – make sure it’s not too revealing.
Protect Your Important Documents
Make sure you keep all your financial documents in a secure location. This could be in a filing cabinet, or a small document safe. It’s best if it has a lock on it, but this is not necessary for all documents. All records that are no longer needed should be shredded or discarded in a safe manner, ensuring that all your personal information is destroyed or marked so it becomes unreadable.
Check Your Credit
I don’t mean your credit score – although this is important to know as well. You should be checking your credit report once per year (although more frequently if you would like). This is to ensure that all the activity is correct. If you see activity on your report that wasn’t initiated by you, you should call the credit bureau to have it investigated and to have a freeze put on your credit.
Secure Your Credit
Similar to checking your credit, it is important to place a fraud alert or security freeze on your credit reports if you believe you’re vulnerable to identity theft. By checking your credit regularly, you will likely be able to catch any unwanted activity before it turns into a major problem.
Read Your Statements
I know this is something that many people choose to avoid doing. They simply pay their credit card bills, without actually looking at all the transactions. I will admit, I have been guilty of this in the past. I just take the total at face value and pay the owed amount. However, this is what hackers count on us doing. If they squeeze in a few charges each month and you don’t check your statements, they could get away with it. You should be reviewing your statement in full each month, and be reporting any unfamiliar charges or claims.