Securing Your Personal Information OFFline is Still Important
You hear so many warnings about online security, that it’s easy to forget how important it is to continue securing our personal information offline. Even with our growing reliance on online communication and data access/storage, we still have papers to secure, there are still face-to-face conversations and we still carry tangible, personally identifying documents. Given that, you need to be mindful of strategies to secure your personal information offline.
The Federal Trade Commission has compiled the following list of reminders and self-checks to help improve your offline security.
Eight Quick Self-Checks For Offline Security
Lock it Up.
Find a safe place at work to lock your wallet or purse. Keep hard copies of personal records and financial documents in a fire-proof safe to secure this sensitive information from roommates or visitors/technicians. You are trusting, but better to be cautious than deal with the consequences of compromised personal information.
What Do You Carry?
Is your wallet bulging or your purse filled with innumerable cards, receipts, and more? Before going out, trim what’s in your wallet or purse. Only carry the identification and credit/debit cards you need. Never carry your social security card. If you have a medicare card or hold one for an aging parent, only carry it if you have a doctor’s appointment. Otherwise, just carry a copy of it.
Invest in a Paper Shredder.
While many of your accounts may be paperless, you probably still have a considerable amount of sensitive paperwork at home. Bank statements, checks, receipts, credit offers/applications, medical statements and the like should all be shredded when you no longer need them. If you don’t have a shredder, keep your eyes open for a shred event in your neighborhood or contact your local office supply store.
Guard Healthcare Information.
Empty prescription bottles? Destroy the labels first before disposing. If someone offers you free health care or products, it’s likely a scam. Do not share your healthcare plan information.
Take your outgoing mail to a USPS collection box or post office, rather than placing in a personal mailbox. If you’re headed out of town, schedule a vacation hold or arrange with a trusted neighbor to promptly collect your mail. If you don’t have a locking mailbox, don’t have check orders delivered to your home.
Opt Out of Pre-Screened Credit Card Offers.
You know all of those mailers for various credit card companies that clutter your mailbox? Opt out. In the wrong hands, access to these pre-approved mailers with your name, address, and activation code, may allow a line of credit to be opened in your name. Call 1-888-567-8688 or visit optoutprescreen.com to opt out. Note that the phone number and website are both run by credit reporting companies.
Freeze Your Credit Reports.
If you don’t need to apply for credit in the near-term, place a freeze on your credit reports. With your credit reports frozen, a thief can’t try to open a line of credit in your name. You can easily freeze/unfreeze your credit reports as needed.
Loose Lips Sink Ships.
Or, at least, they compromise your information security. Just like sharing too much on social media can put you at risk, be mindful of how much you share verbally with strangers in public. The following anecdote (true story), underscores this perfectly.
So, a man was on an airplane headed to a security conference to be a member of the panel. He overhead another passenger, in a loud voice, sharing details about his family (the names and ages of his children, his wife’s name, his children’s sports/activities, how and where they had spent the previous weekend, on and on... Fast forward to the conference. That same traveler/panelist was in the midst of the security conference when a gentleman in the audience stood to complain about the intrusion of a certain government agency into his privacy...that agency probably knew all about him. The panelist recognized his voice as the “loud talker” from the flight. The panelist identified himself as an employee of that agency and proceeded to parrot back to the man all that he had overhead on the plane, as the “loud talker” stood aghast. When the panelist shared how he knew all of that information, the “loud talker” suddenly had nothing to say.
Don’t be your own worst security enemy. Think before you speak.
Use High-Tech Tools Too
The previous checklist offers common sense, “low-tech” strategies to secure your personal information offline. However, you can use “high-tech” tools to bolster your efforts.
Remember those documents you’re going to keep in that fire proof safe? Or that bundle of cards and receipts you are going to clear from your wallet or purse? Create digital copies of those documents and cards as a backup in case of loss or theft. Better yet, store those digital copies in cloud storage, so you have access without relying on a hard drive or thumb drive.
Not sure where to start? Consider the iStratus app. The iStratus PDF Creator allows you to generate those digital copies and then store and organize those files in the encrypted Dropbox cloud storage, for mobile access via your Apple devices. By being mindful and following a few simple strategies (both low-tech and high-tech), you can successfully secure your personal information.