Keeping Your Information Private (and Safe)

Ray’s Take We live in an increasingly online world. You can trade stocks, buy groceries, pay bills or order a ride, all on your computer or smartphone. Almost any financial transaction you need to make can be done in the comfort of your own home. With identity theft posing a real threat, keeping financial data private requires that consumers be proactive in the way they approach online security.

Your credit report is your window into your ID security. The Fair and Accurate Credit Transaction Act, passed by the federal government in 2003, mandates that each of the major credit bureaus supply consumers with a free copy of their credit report each year. This report is an excellent tool to see what’s going on with your personal information. But a lot can happen in a year.

Keeping your network secure is another great tool to protect yourself. If you have a wireless network, make sure you keep it secure. A hacker can gain access to anything you do over an unsecured network in a matter of seconds. Purchasing a protection program for your computer is a great investment.

Lock your smartphone. A smartphone is a mini computer that carries access to all your personal information if you use it to make purchases or do online banking with it. Just like securing your home computer, you should secure your phone. Checking to see what has been charged to your credit or debit card should be a daily ritual. The sooner you catch it, the less damage done.

You can also protect yourself offline by limiting what you carry. When you go out, take only the identification, credit and debit cards you need, and make sure you have a physical copy of all debit, credit and loyalty cards in case they get stolen.

Identity theft is a significant risk that affects the lives (and credit scores) of millions of people each year. Taking just a few extra precautions can help protect you from being another statistic.

Dana’s Take I recently recorded my fingerprint online for “security” purposes. Later, I reflected that I had just sent my fingerprint over the internet. Could someone copy it and claim to be me? Possibly. Did I feel like a fool? Absolutely.

Being safe with your personal information is a big issue today, especially with the ease of shopping online. Make sure that any online store you use either has “https” at the beginning of the web address or displays a closed padlock symbol.

Be wary of any public Wi-Fi connection, like those offered at coffee shops or libraries. They carry extra risks since they aren’t private.

Many online merchants ask you to store information, like mailing address and credit card information, for the sake of convenience. Given the number of data breaches that have occurred at major retailers, this may not be the best choice. The benefit of this convenience is far outweighed by the inconvenience of having your identity stolen.

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