As of Monday, April 9, 2012
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- Shred financial documents and paperwork with personal information before you discard them;
- Don't carry your Social Security card in your wallet or write your Social Security number on a check. Give it out only if absolutely necessary or ask to use another identifier;
- Don't give out personal information on the phone, through the mail, or over the Internet unless you know who you are dealing with. Avoid disclosing personal financial information when using public wireless connections;
- Never click on links sent in unsolicited emails; instead, type in a web address you know. Use firewalls, anti-spyware, and anti-virus software to protect your home computer; keep them up-to-date. If you use Peer-to-Peer file sharing, check the settings to make sure you are not sharing your sensitive private files with other users. Visit OnGuardOnline.gov for more information.
- Don't use an obvious password like your birth date, your mother's maiden name, or the last four digits of your Social Security number;
- Keep your personal information in a secure place at home, especially if you have roommates, employ outside help or are having work done in your house.
- You should also take an active approach to look for suspicious activity. Monitor your financial accounts and billing statements, and inspect your credit report. The FTC notes that the law requires the major nationwide consumer reporting companies — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — to provide you a free copy of your credit report every 12 months, but you have to ask for it.
- In this information age, your personal information is your most valuable asset. It pays to be aggressive in protecting it.
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