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Secure Your Personal Data

Think about the many places your personal data lives – the documents that contain it, the businesses collecting it, the devices storing and sharing it, the websites and apps using it. Fraudsters work by targeting those sources of data to ultimately profit from it.

Despite the “how” and “why,” security incidents like data breaches, phishing scams and more can leave you wondering: What should I do? The good news is that awareness and prevention are often the best remedy for many of these threats.

Here are 12 tips (that will take five minutes or less!) to help better secure your personal data.

#1 Update your passwords everywhere.

Let’s start with creating strong passwords. It’s important to use a unique password for each online account. Your passwords should include lower- and uppercase letters, as well as special characters. If you have more than a handful of passwords to remember, consider getting a password manager tool.

#2 Complete software and operating system updates for all devices.

Smartphones, laptops, tables, desktops and connected (IoT) devices all require software updates from time to time. Developers continually update your software to fix bugs that fraudsters can use to gain access to your devices. Take a few minutes to install your device updates – including Apple Watches, FitBits and Alexa-enabled devices – as soon as they become available.

#3 Shred old documents and mail.

Documents can hold much more personal data than you may think – and dumpster-diving fraudsters often use them to piece together your identity. Invest in a shredder to properly dispose of old bills, bank statements and other documents that contain your personal data.

Parents: Take extra caution when handling your children’s personal information. Fraudsters target children in identity crime because they do not have paper trails or financial histories attached to their identities – making child identity theft much more difficult to detect.

#4 Set your social media accounts to private mode.

Social media platforms are notorious for making personal data available to the public.

While it can be a great way to stay connected with long distance relatives and friends, it’s imperative that you know what you are sharing on your social media accounts and who can access it.

You can secure your personal data on social media platforms by reviewing your account settings. For Instagram and Twitter, private/protected mode also allows you to review friend requests before accepting them. Read more about social media privacy in our Social Media Education Center.

#5 Disable location settings for unused apps.

Tablets, smartphones and other connected technology can track your location data unless you turn it off. Location and other device-specific data (i.e. your activity and usage, website visits, searched keywords, etc.) can reveal more information about you than you may realize. Disable location services for apps you don’t use, and consider changing your settings so location data is collected only when an app is actively being used.

#6 Review your tagged posts on social media.

Most social platforms include features where you can “tag” your friends in posts, photos, videos and more. But as the old saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. Do you have photos of you or friends in front of your residence? What about kids and grandkids in sports jerseys representing their schools? Take a few minutes to audit your tagged posts. Remove any posts that clearly display personal data or other content that may impact your public reputation.

#7 Clean up your friend and follower lists.

Fraudsters will target old or inactive accounts for personal data and scamming purposes. Scammers know that a message from your friend is much less suspicious than one from a stranger. Never click on links or attachments in messages you receive – even from friends – until you’ve verified the sender.

#8 Take this phishing quiz to see if you can spot scam emails.

Fraudsters are aware that you are using email, social media, banking portals, bill pay, games, apps and other online services in your day-to-day life. Phishing is one of the most common scams targeting consumers of all types – with an endless variety of approaches. While some scams are obvious to spot, others may impersonate your CEO, financial institution, best friend or favorite retailer. Knowledge is your best defense against these threats, so take this quiz to see where your phishing knowledge stands!

#9 Blur your house on Google Maps.

With a click of your finger, you can easily find any address on Google Maps, and even view satellite footage of your destination.

Google Street View displays images of Google Maps addresses – accessible to anyone with an Internet connection.

While this feature has its perks, especially for house hunting and rental searching, it can also reveal license plate numbers and identifiable landmarks near your home to be used for identity theft and other criminal activity. Visit Google Maps, or use the smartphone app to report the image of your home that you’d like removed.

Note: Blurring your house on Google Maps cannot be undone.

#10 Review apps crosslinked with your social media accounts.

Some apps are designed to work more efficiently when linked with other apps. Crosslinking is when apps and other services share data with each other to ultimately provide you with a better user experience. An example of crosslinking is using your Facebook login credentials to log into other games, apps and services. A quick way to secure your personal data is to find out who exactly is collecting what.

Check Apps Crosslinked to Social Media Accounts

Twitter: Settings > Apps > Review/Revoke Access
Facebook: Settings > Apps and Websites > Review Apps
LinkedIn: Settings > Account tab > Partners and Services > Permitted Services

#11 Set up two- or multi-factor authentication for your online accounts.

Even though you may spend a minute more logging in, it’s worth having the extra layer of protection added to your online accounts. Common forms of multi-factor authentication include SMS texts, phone calls, emails and mobile push notifications. Take the time to enable this feature for your online accounts.

#12 Pull a credit report.

While credit reports and credit monitoring services do not equate to full identity protection, pulling your credit report can often show you obvious signs of identity crime as it relates to your personal and financial information. Each of the three major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, TransUnion) offers you a free credit report every 12 months. If you haven’t already this year, pull a credit report to check for suspicious accounts, inaccuracies in personal information and other unfamiliar activity that may indicate identity crime.

Continue following Fighting Identity Crimes to get the latest breach and scam updates, ID protection news & tips from our industry experts.

Read more: Ways to Keep Your Data & Identity Safe Online