Protect your personal information

Four ways to help protect your personal and financial information.

It seems like it is in the news almost every day: a hacker has broken into a computer database and personal information for thousands of customers has been taken. You are left wondering: is my personal information now in the hands of someone looking to steal my identify?

Instead of waiting for something to happen, why not act now to do all you can to protect your identity and your personal information? The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has a wealth of information on ways to protect your identity and what to do if your personal information is stolen.

The FTC suggests keeping personal information safe at home as well as being safe online. A shredder is an important tool for destroying documents you no longer need at home such as credit card receipts, credit card offers, insurance papers, medical billings, etc. For suggestions on how long to keep important papers at home, check out the list at Colorado State University Extension. Keep important papers such as birth certificates, social security cards, marriage license and death certificates in a locked secure location such as a lock box or a safety deposit box.

When you are out, protect your identity by carrying only information you absolutely need with you. Leave your social security card at home. Make a copy of your Medicare card, if you have one, and black out all numbers on the copy of the card except for the last four and take the copy with you. If you are going to a medical appointment, you will need to bring the original card.

Be careful about what personal information you share on social medical websites. If you are ordering merchandise online, make sure the website is encrypted before entering credit card information. Look for the “lock” icon on your browser status bar before entering personal information.

Be aware of scams looking to steal your identity in emails. Be skeptical of any email that asks for personal information. For example, if a bank requests information such as your account number in an email, do not email that information. Your bank knows your account number. You can always contact your bank using the phone number on your bank statement to verify any requests for information you receive by electronic communication or by phone.

The Michigan State University Extension website has other valuable resources to help manage personal finances. Be a smart consumer and plan ahead to keep your money safe!

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