It seems keeping your personal information safe these days is like a full time job. From managing all your online accounts to monitoring your credit to validating what is spam. We live in an online global economy. Gone are the days where you can trust every email, every phone call and every piece of snail mail. Unfortunately, we must be on high alert 24/7, but it shouldn’t be a full-time job just protecting your personal information!
October is Cyber Safety Month and we thought it only fitting that we help our readers easily protect their data. Check out the 7 tips below to help you keep your data secure.
- Learn to recognize scams. Institutions like banks including Litchfield Bancorp, credit card companies, the IRS, and even utility companies will never call you without already knowing your account information. If they call you and ask for your account number, social security number, or date of birth this is a big red flag. If you receive an email from an institution that requests that you call, email, or click a button to log into your account, always go directly to the institutions website and content them using the email, phone number, or account login on their website. Some emails can look very similar to a legitimate business but are in fact spam.
- Opt out of data collection. This can be tricky to do since companies buy and sell your data but be more careful when you fill out forms – both online and print. Many times, in the fine print it will say how they use your data. If it says they share your information, ask for that clause to be removed or think twice about using that service. Also, make sure to uncheck options for any unwanted special promotions or emails when signing up for services online. You can also register your phone number on the Do Not Call
- Keep your phone and computers secure. This includes keeping them password or biometric protected as well as making sure you have proper anti-virus and malware software installed. Never look at any sensitive information while on public wi-fi or where someone can easily view your screen that includes logging into your Litchfield Bancorp accounts!
- Passwords, passwords, passwords. You’ve heard it before and you’ll probably hear it again. Make sure you use strong passwords that have upper and lower case letters, numbers, and symbols. You shouldn’t use the same password for all your online accounts either. These are your first line of defense against online hackers, don’t make it easy on them. Avoid using dates of birth, children’s names, vehicle tag numbers anything that can easily be traced back to you!
- Shred your documents. Anything that has information other than your address should be shredded. Credit card statements, bank statements, credit card offers, paystubs, tax forms, etc. Your garbage is an easy target to gain access to your info. If you don’t have a shredder, be on the lookout for our Shred It Day in the spring where you can bring in your documents and have them securely disposed of. Litchfield Bancorp offers this to customers free of charge at least once a year, but many other businesses offer them as well.
- Social Media is one of the easiest ways to get information about people. Not only can you figure out their Date of Birth, but you could find out answers to their security questions. Mother’s maiden name, pet’s name, the street you grew up on, etc. You’d be surprised just how much information you put on social media. Keep your profile set to private and only approve requests from people you know.
- Keep an eye on your credit report and mail. We all get a lot of junk mail, but make sure you open everything. Something you might think is a junk letter from a cell phone company who wants your business, could be a statement of account that was opened fraudulently in your name! Check your credit report and check it regularly. You are entitled to one free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each of the three nationwide credit reporting companies. Find out how here: https://www.ftc.gov/faq/consumer-protection/get-my-free-credit-report. You can sign up for monitoring companies for free that will let you know any time there is new activity on your report.
While you may think your personal information is personal, you’d be surprised how much information about you winds up online. By following the above tips, you can help limit the amount of information that gets shared and sold to other entities.
Stephen Yonych Jr.
Assistant Vice President, Watertown Manager