As more and more of our personal, commercial and business activities move online, it’s becoming increasingly important to ensure that our personal details are kept safe.
Here are five things you should be doing to keep your personal details safe.
Don’t give your details to people or organisations you don’t know.
We’ve all heard stories of how people have been scammed out of their life savings and wondered just how that sounded like a good idea to the person scammed. The truth is that scammers are becoming increasingly sophisticated at obtaining our personal details. It’s no longer just an email from a scammer claiming to be a Nigerian prince that you need to watch out for, it’s phone calls, emails and texts, sometimes appearing to be from your own bank or internet provider.
If you receive a call and you’re not sure if it’s a scam, just hang up. If it really is your bank or another company that you genuinely deal with, they’ll understand and contact you in some other way. You can always hang up and contact the company directly yourself through your normal method to find out if the enquiry is genuine.
Don’t live your life on social media
Social media is great, let’s be honest. It’s allowed us to connect with family, friends and colleagues that we may easily have lost touch with otherwise, but we need to remember that posting too much information about ourselves online gives clues to our lives that unscrupulous people can use.
Things like your date of birth and your address can easily be worked out from your social media accounts if you’re always posting pictures of your home, saying where you live or receiving birthday best wishes from your loved ones online.
No one is saying you shouldn’t enjoy social media, but before you post anything, just consider what the post says about you and what could be deduced from it.
Keep your passwords private
Passwords are the bane of our lives, aren’t they? Trying to remember them can be so frustrating, but we need to remember why they’re needed and why it’s important to keep them secure.
If your password is easily worked out, then it’s not doing the job you need it to. Passwords should be virtually impossible to work out by a total stranger, and even by someone who knows you well.
Don’t use the same password for every site either – that defeats the purpose.
Dispose of personal information securely
Paper mail, letters from your bank and household bills spill through our letterboxes every day, but how do you dispose of them? Some of them need to be kept safe and filed away at home, but what about the mail that you don’t need to keep? What happens to that?
Every time you dispose of a letter, even junk mail, consider what information the letter contains. If it shows your name and address, or an account number for example, make sure you shred the letter completely before disposing of it. This also applies to those speculative credit card applications that arrive with your name and address already filled in!
But disposing of data is not just about paperwork. Nowadays, we need to consider digital data and ensure we are disposing of that securely too. If you have USB drives or SD cards with documents on them, make sure you store them securely. If you sell or trade in an old mobile phone or tablet, make sure you wipe it and restore it to factory settings to delete all your personal information including photos and cookies from the storage drive.
Don’t click links or attachments unless you know what it is and who it is from
Scammers are getting good at hiding their true intentions and making their illicit communications seem genuine. If you receive an email with links or attachments, always treat the link or attachment with scepticism and never blindly click or open it.
Look for things in the message that don’t seem quite right. Giveaways like poor spelling or grammar can sometimes indicate that the email has come from another country and is not from your supplier at all. Hover over links to see what URL they are taking you to. If it’s not an address you recognise, then don’t click it. Instead, type in the URL you would normally use for that organisation and enter their website that way. If they really are trying to contact you, there will probably be a message in your normal account dashboard. Alternatively, call the organisation directly, describe the message you received, and they’ll let you know if it’s genuine.
Keeping our personal details safe online and offline will become harder and harder in the future, so it pays to make sure you take some basic precautions.