Keeping your information safe


MN State Senator Chuck Wiger, District 43

“It is preferable to be cautious in one’s choices and actions than to act recklessly and suffer afterwads.”

— English proverb

 

With recent widespread data breaches in the news, consumers have good reason to be concerned about the safety of their financial information. Protecting your personal information can help reduce the risk of identity theft. Here are some steps you can take to keep your information secure especially during the holidays when consumers are purchasing more items online.

Keep your personal information secure online. 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 initiated 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. Or, call the customer service number listed on your account statement. Ask whether the company really sent a request.

Keep your browser secure. To guard your online transactions, use encryption software that scrambles information 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 your personal information secure offline. Lock your financial documents and records in a safe place at home. 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 consequences of not sharing.

Limit what you carry. When you go out, take only the identification, credit and debit cards you need. Leave your Social Security card at home.

Shred hard copy documents. Shred receipts, credit offers, credit applications, insurance forms, physician statements, checks, bank statements, expired charge cards and similar documents when you don’t need them any longer.

Consider opting out of prescreened offers of credit and insurance by mail. You can opt out for five years or permanently. To opt out, call 1-888-567-8688 or go to www.optoutprescreen.com. The three nationwide credit reporting companies operate the phone number and website.

Keep your devises secure. Install anti-virus software, 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.

Secure 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.

 Be wise about Wi-Fi. Before you send personal information over your laptop or smartphone on a public Wi-Fi system in a coffee shop, library, airport, hotel 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.

Protect your online accounts. Create a strong password and use different passwords for different accounts. If one password was compromised, all of your accounts using that password would be vulnerable too. Remember to change your password every few months. 

Be alert for suspicious activity. Regularly monitor your online bank accounts. Keep track of your transactions so that you can spot suspicious activity and report it as soon as possible.

For more information, feel free to contact police departments in North St. Paul, Maplewood and Oakdale. Deputies in Ramsey and Washington County sheriffs’ offices are also helpful. Our public safety officials are happy to give you safety tips. They prefer preventing crime to writing up crime reports.


 

If you have any questions, please contact me at sen.chuck.wiger@senate.mn or 651-296-6820. To keep track of what the legislature is doing, go to www.senate.mn, where you can sign up to follow committees of interest or receive other notifications.

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