When people think of financial security, they’re probably thinking in terms of having enough money for retirement, paying off a mortgage, or investing wisely. But your personal data security as it relates to your finances is a whole other type of security, and it can give you just as much peace of mind.
- PIN Security
You’ve probably heard a great deal about creating strong, unique passwords on your computer, especially in the wake of the Sony Pictures hack in which dozens of passwords were accessed on the studio’s servers. But do you think about the fact that your PIN number for your debit card, your credit cards, or other fund access cards is really just a password? Is it a “strong” number that a thief will never guess, or is it something easy, like your address, your birth month and year, the last four digits of your phone number, or even worse, something like “1234?”
Once you’ve made sure your PIN numbers are all strong, the next important factor is making them unique. If you always use the same PIN number, all it takes is one pickpocket to wipe out all of your accounts at once. Make sure each card has its own unique number, and be sure that you don’t write those numbers down in your wallet or store them in your phone.
As if that wasn’t already a lot to remember, it’s really important that you change your PIN numbers from time to time. Just as some corporations require a new password on their computers every 90 days for added security, it’s a good idea to go to your bank or financial institution and reset your PINs every so often.
- Two-step Authentication
Speaking of added security, there’s an authentication system that you can enable on secure accounts that will help make sure hackers and thieves have a lot of work to do before they can access your finances. It’s called two-step authentication, and it basically means that you not only have to have the username and password to access your account, but that the company or website will send a text message to your phone or email with a unique one-time-use code every time you attempt to access the account. You’ll have to enter this unique code after entering your username and password, meaning a hacker would have to have your username, your password, and physically have access to your phone in order to get the code to log in. It might sound like a hassle, but it’s really not that big a deal once you become used to it, and it’s nothing compared to the hassle of clearing up identity theft. If it’s too much effort, consider enabling it only on accounts that are very sensitive, like your online banking accounts and your high-limit credit cards.
- Safe Internet Shopping
A note on credit cards: are you one of the millions of Americans who shops online? Are you one of the 95% of identity theft victims who said that shopping online is such an integral part of their lives that ID theft hasn’t changed that behavior for them? Good. Internet shopping is a time-saving convenience, can offer you the best prices on goods and services, and can even reduce our carbon footprint by combining shipments and reducing trips to the store.
But you have to be smart about where you click, and how much info you enter on retail websites. You might consider keeping a separate, low-limit credit card for online purchases, and use it for internet shopping in order to restrict how much of your financial identity is out there for hackers to find.
By making these measures a habit instead of a one-time fix, you can work to stay a step ahead of identity thieves. With enough of these safeguards in place, ideally you can prevent a crime from happening by being too much trouble for a hacker to bother with.
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