Protecting your personal information can help reduce your risk of identity theft1. There are four main ways to do it: know who you share information with; store and dispose2 of your personal information securely, especially your Social Security Number; and maintain3 appropriate security on your computers and other electronic devices.
Before you share information at your workplace, a business, your child's school, or a doctor's office, ask why they need it, how they will safeguard it, and the consequences4 of not sharing.
Be Alert to Impersonators5
Make sure you know who is getting your personal or financial information. Don’t give out personal information on the phone, through the mail or over the Internet unless you’ve initiated6 the contact or know who you’re dealing with. If a company that claims to have an account with you sends email asking for personal information, don’t click on links in the email. Instead, type the company name into your web browser, go to their site, and contact them through customer service. Ask whether the company really sent a request.
Safely Dispose of Personal Information
Before you dispose of a computer, get rid of all the personal information it stores. Use a wipe utility program7 to overwrite the entire hard drive.
Before you dispose of a mobile device, check your owner’s manual for information on how to delete all the information permanently, and how to save or transfer information to a new device. Remove the memory or subscriber identity module (SIM) card from a mobile device.
Encrypt Your Data
Keep your browser secure. To guard your online transactions, use encryption software that scrambles8information you send over the internet. A “lock” icon on the status bar of your internet browser means your information will be safe when it’s transmitted. Look for the lock before you send personal or financial information online.
Keep Passwords Private
Use strong passwords with your laptop, credit, bank, and other accounts. Be creative: think of a special phrase and use the first letter of each word as your password. Substitute numbers for some words or letters. For example, “I want to see the Pacific Ocean” could become 1W2CtPo.
Protect your passwords. The longer the password, the tougher it is to crack. Use at least 10 characters; 12 is ideal for most home users. Mix letters, numbers and special characters. Try to be unpredictable9 – don’t use your name, birthdate or common words. Don’t use the same password for many accounts. If it’s stolen from you it can be used to take over all your accounts. Don’t share passwords on the phone, in texts or by email. Legitimate companies will not send you messages asking for your password. If you get such a message, it’s probably a scam.
Don’t Overshare on Social Networking Sites
If you post too much information about yourself, an identity thief can find information about your life, use it to answer ‘challenge’ questions10 on your accounts, and get access to your money and personal information. Consider limiting access to your networking page to a small group of people. Never post your full name, Social Security number, address, phone number, or account numbers in publicly accessible sites.
Securing Your Social Security Number
Keep a close hold on your Social Security number and ask questions before deciding to share it. Ask if you can use a different kind of identification. If someone asks you to share your SSN or your child’s, ask: why they need it, how it will be used, how they will protect it, what happens if you don’t share the number.
The decision to share is yours. Sometimes you will have to share your number. Your employer and financial institutions need your SSN for wage and tax reporting purposes. A business may ask for your SSN so they can check your credit when you apply for a loan, rent an apartment, or sign up for11 utility service.
Keeping Your Devices Secure
Use Security Software
Install anti-virus and anti-spyware software, and a firewall. Set your preference to update these protections often. Protect against intrusions and infections that can compromise your computer files or passwords by installing security patches for your operating system and other software programs.
Avoid Phishing E-mails
Don’t open files, click on links, or download programs sent by strangers.Opening a file from someone you don’t know could expose your system to a computer virus or spyware that captures12 your passwords or other information you type.
Be Wise about Wi-Fi
Before you send personal information over your laptop or smartphone on a public wireless network13 in a coffee shop, library, or other public place, see if your information will be protected. If you use an encrypted website, it protects only the information you send to and from that site. If you use a secure wireless network, all the information you send on that network is protected.
Lock Up Your Laptop
Keep financial information on your laptop only when necessary. Don’t use an automatic login feature14 that saves your user name and password, and always log off when you’re finished. That way, if your laptop is stolen, it will be harder for a thief to get at your personal information.
Read Privacy Policies
1. identity theft – кража личной информации
2. dispose – (зд.) утилизировать, уничтожать
3. maintain – поддерживать, обеспечивать поддержку
4. consequences – обстоятельства
5.impersonator – имитатор, человек, выдающий себя за другого
6.initiate – инициировать
7. wipe utility program – программа очистки жесткого диска
8. scramble – (зд.) шифровать, кодировать
9. unpredictable – непредсказуемый
10.‘challenge’question – «проверочный» вопрос (задаваемый клиентам для подтверждения их личности по телефону)
11. sign up for – подписаться на
12. capture – схватить, захватить, поймать
13. public wireless network – общественная беспроводная сеть
14. automatic login feature–функция автозаполнения логина и пароля в браузере