14 Aug How to Secure Your Personal Information Offline
Last week, we talked about protecting your personal and financial data online. In a digital world, it is most often digital information that is stolen. However, it is still possible to have your financial information or even your identity stolen through other means. Here are some important tips on protecting your information offline. Be sure to use these in conjunction with the advice mentioned in our previous post to ensure you are protected both online and offline. And if you have any questions about the steps we take to protect your identity here are The Accounting Guys, reach out to one of our Provo accounting professionals.
Lock Up Important Documents
Any important documents in your home should be locked in a safe place that is not easily accessible. Be sure it is protected from roommates, repairmen, cleaning crews, or any other visitors who enter your home. Documents you should lock up might include:
- Birth certificates
- Social Security cards
- Bank statements
- Medical records
- Credit card statements
You should also lock up your wallet or purse when you’re at work, to ensure it’s not taken when you’re away from your desk.
Limit What You Carry
Whenever you leave home, carry only the items you will need. This will likely include your driver’s license, or another form of identification, and any credit or debit cards you plan to use while you are out. Never carry your Social Security card on your person, unless you must bring it with you for a specific purpose, such as providing it to a new employer on your first day of work. You should also never carry your Medicare card with you. Instead, make a copy and black out all but the last four digits of your ID number. Carry the copy with you, unless you need to bring the original card for a doctor’s appointment.
Destroy Documents with Sensitive Information
There are certain documents that we all know need to be shredded: checks, bank statements, insurance forms, etc. But there are many other kinds of documents that can put your information at risk without you knowing it. These include:
- Credit card offers
- Credit applications
- Physician statements
- Expired charge cards
- Prescription labels
Shred all of the above types of paperwork, and remove and destroy the labels on prescription bottles before you throw them out. These all contain information that thieves and scammers can use against you.
Be Aware of Your Mail
Your mailbox can often hold a lot of very sensitive information. If you have a secure mailbox with a lock on it, this is generally not an issue. But if you have an unsecured mailbox at the end of your driveway, it’s important that you are aware of what is going into and out of your mailbox.
When sending out any sensitive documents, drop them at the post office instead of sticking them in your unsecured mailbox. Be sure to remove mail delivered to your mailbox promptly. If you’re going to be gone for a few days, ensure someone checks your mail every day for you, or put a vacation hold on your mail until you return.
Wipe Data from Devices
While this tip does refer to digital data, we’ve placed it here, since the information might not be shared online. Whenever you get a new phone, computer, or laptop. It’s vital that you complete remove any information from your old device before turning it over to the buyer or exchanging it at the store. You can find instructions on how to do this for your specific device online, usually on the manufacturer’s or service provider’s website.
Data is everywhere—both online and offline—and it’s important that you take the proper steps to ensure critical information doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. While falling victim to identity theft can happen to anyone, following the tips outlined here and in our previous post can help minimize the chances that it will happen to you. Contact one of our Provo accounting professionals if you have any concerns about your financial data, or to learn more about how we protect the information you give us.