The renowned credit reporting agency Equifax was recently dealt a major blow when there was a data breach in their servers. As a consequence, hackers gained access to sensitive personal data of more than 143 million individuals.
The information which such agencies can be sufficient enough to destroy credit reports, collect refunds, hijack medical data and file fake tax returns.
This breach should serve as a reminder to us that nobody who is digitally connected can remain safe from breaches of these kind until they observe certain precautions. Here are simple ways in which a person can protect his or her personal information:
Make it Difficult for others to Get Credit
A major reason why identity thefts take place is to fraudulently take out credit cards or loans in the victim’s name and not repay them. When an identity theft is carried out for this purpose it is possible that you may not find out about it until you go through the effort of checking your credit score. It may be already too late by the time you realise that your credit rating has been ruined. There are three ways to safeguard yourself against crimes of this nature:
- When a fraud alert is active a lender is required to verify their identity before the credit can be availed. These alerts are usually free of charge but they need to be renewed every 90 days.
- You can place a credit freeze which will prohibit any third party from gaining access to your credit report. With the credit report unavailable a thief will not be able to obtain a credit card or loan in your name.
- Placing a credit lock helps you to achieve similar results as against a credit freeze. The difference is that you can lift off a credit lock electronically which is not possible with a credit freeze.
Password Protect your Devices
Any device which stores personal information such as laptops, tablets or cell phones must be password protected. These gadgets can be easily stolen and if there is no password protection a thief can gain instant access to your personal data.
Set a Strong Password
Most of us set a very simple password so that we have little difficulty remembering them. However, setting such easy-to-remember passwords is like handing out an invitation to hackers to take control over your account. Figuring out the password of one account can make it easier for them to access other accounts. Long and random passwords are generally considered to be strong passwords.
Set up Verification on important accounts
Important email and financial accounts must be protected with two step verification process. Banks usually adopt this type of security and notify their customers when their account is accessed from a different location or device. You must check your account settings to ensure that this feature is activated on each account that you own.
Avoid Open Wi-Fi for important activities
By using public networks for carrying out financial transactions you are putting your identity and other crucial information at a risk of being stolen. It is difficult to say with certainty how secure such devices and connections really are. Therefore one must always use their own network and device to ensure data security.
Don’t Ignore Software Updates
Software updates generally include improvements of security mechanism. You must always install the new updates that are available for your operating system, antivirus software and other software that you use. Cyber threats constantly evolve and installing these updates help you to ensure greater security of your devices.
Don’t give away Personal Information
These days it is common to receive emails, calls or texts from people who impersonate the government, charity, retailers or relatives in an effort to extract personal information. No matter how real it seems you must consider the possibility that it is a phishing scam and therefore not give away your personal information. If you believe for some good reason that the request is legitimate you must look up for the institute’s contact information on the internet and verify the request.
Refrain from Clicking links or opening email attachments
Hackers usually employ these methods to gain access into your system. Once they have gained an entry they may steal personal information without you even noticing it.
Besides your personal data, you must also take sufficient precautions to ensure that your assets are safe by writing a Will using a Will template. Taking these measures should protect you from theft or fraud of any kind.