Data breaches, unfortunately, are almost becoming a routine occurrence. About 174 million records across the globe were exposed during 855 data breaches last year, according to Verizon’s annual data breach report, and expect that number to increase this year. Even if your records haven’t been exposed, it may still be a good idea to follow these precautions.
- Check your credit reports regularly. When you get your credit reports, check for address changes, accounts, late payments and other activity that you don’t recognize for signs of possible identity theft.
- Watch out for medical identity theft. Read the Explanation of Benefits that you receive from your insurance company and check your medical bills to make sure they’re accurate. If you notice a doctor you’ve never visited or a procedure you didn’t receive, contact your insurer at once.
- Guard your social networks. If you have a blog or social accounts, such as Facebook and Twitter, use the highest security settings possible to ensure your information, posts and photos aren’t being leaked onto the Internet. Also to avoid being a victim of burglary or identity theft, don’t advertise the fact that you’re traveling.
- Use strong passwords. Use a mix of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, symbols and punctuation to make your passwords harder to crack.
- Connect securely. Use firewall, anti-virus and anti-spyware software on your home computers and laptops. Keep all software, as well as your operating system, updated.
- Protect your mobile devices. Losing your mobile phone, a thumb drive or laptop can be just as bad as losing your wallet. Be sure to protect your mobile devices with passwords and encryption.
- Limit what you carry. You’ll have less to lose and a lower risk of identity theft if your wallet is lost or stolen. Don’t carry your Social Security card, extra credit cards or a list of your PINs and passwords.
- Purchase a home safe and shredder. Store documents with personal information, such as tax returns, W2s, passports and your Social Security card in a home safe. And, if you don’t need to keep account statements, bills and other sensitive documents, shred them.