Have you ever been a victim of fraud or identity theft, where some of your personal documents were stolen and the data used fraudulently? Today, with online shopping and social media being a way of life, you cannot afford to be complacent about protecting your financial information. In today’s ‘virtual’ world, we are much more vulnerable than ever and must be more vigilant in safeguarding our finances. Here are some tips to minimize the risk or damage of this happening to you.
Are your sensitive documents kept securely,
Where are your certificates and other important documents? Are they lying around in unlocked drawers or are they locked away securely in a fireproof safe? Apart from securing the physical documents, scan and secure them electronically.
It is not enough to just casually discard old financial statements; they can become prime target for thieves. Invest in a paper shredder; a personal one for home use is not very expensive and with this you can effectively destroy documents rather than simply tearing them up.
Secure your devices
Are your smartphone, laptop or other devices password protected? If your password or PIN is compromised, this could lead to devastating losses should someone gain access to your financial information. Do not share your passwords or PINs with anyone. If you think you might forget them and absolutely need to write them down, then store them securely and change them periodically using different passwords for different accounts or devices. Set strong passwords; be creative with your choice and avoid easy-to-guess passwords such as birthdays and names of family members.
In addition, secure your devices with a firewall and security software packages that have anti-virus and anti-spam features. If you are technologically challenged, get an IT specialist or a tech savvy friend that you trust to help you download and install this.
What’s in your wallet or handbag? Sensitive documents should be kept securely in a bank deposit or a home safe, particularly those with your name and address on them. Make a photocopy of your current cards, driver’s license, and any important documents; these copies will come in handy if you need to cancel quickly or need to order replacements. Have your bank emergency numbers handy so that you can make those calls if you need to.
Beware of scams
Your bank and other legitimate companies will never request for sensitive information such as bank details, passwords and PINs by telephone or email; these are usually fraudsters attempting to defraud you. Contact your bank directly and report such incidents.
Do you use public computers?
Avoid using public computers for sensitive transactions as your information could be compromised. If you do use a public computer, be sure to clear your history before you log out completely, otherwise other users can intercept your information. Free wireless internet hotspots are often not at all secure. Use secure websites for your online shopping. The address will usually start with ‘https’ and there should be a key or closed padlock in the status bar. Shop only with trusted retailers.
What are you sharing on social media?
Do you share personal information on social media, such as your address or telephone number? It seems so natural to put seemingly innocent information about yourself and your family out there but it makes it possible for fraudsters to authenticate your identity. Geo-tagged photos inform people of exactly where you are; this could expose you and your family to crime.
Even if you put all these measures in place, there is no guarantee that your financial information will be completely secure. However, by protecting yourself, you limit access to sensitive information and protect your personal finances from fraud.
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