Is your desk cluttered with papers? Old expense reports, post it note reminders, maybe even pay stubs?  Do you sometimes forget to log out of your computer before leaving your desk? Do you share your work space with others?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may be unwittingly putting yourself at risk. There is a greater awareness of the sensitivity to the risk of personal information sharing in the consumer population today than there was a decade ago, but there is still a disconnect as to what sort of behaviors

constitute increasing your risk of an identity related crime.  If you share a workspace with one or more coworkers, understand that added precaution needs to be taken to protect yourself.

You should always log yourself out of your desktop computer whenever you’re done using it, or if you’re going to be away from your desk for more than a few minutes.  An unprotected PC can not only expose personal emails, information, or web activity to someone else in your area, but could also cause trouble with your employer.  Most offices have user specific profiles and hold employees accountable for the activities conducted with those profiles.  Whether it’s an improper use of time or breaches in security standards, it’s always better to ensure that you can account for every activity associated with your profile.

Make sure you keep a clean workspace and pay attention to what documents are left out and visible to anyone who might pass by your desk.  If you share a workspace with another employee, this practice becomes even more important.  A W2 with all your pertinent personal information can be easily swiped from your desktop by an unscrupulous co-worker, a disgruntled underlying, (underling?) or even the water guy.  Don’t forget all those with access to your office who aren’t regular employees.

You should have a security protocol in place for storing and sharing sensitive information in the workplace, and if you feel that your office’s security practices aren’t up to snuff, talk to your manager about it.  Emphasize that it’s not only in your best interest, it’s also in theirs.  Data and security breaches are potentially huge financial expenses for an employer, and having a solid protocol for handling access to sensitive information can go a long way to mitigating those risks.

Remember that even though your personal workspace and computer might feel safe and private at times, that’s largely an illusion.  Take steps to ensure you’re protecting access to your papers, effects, and computer activity, and you’ll be happier for it.

“What a Breach Letter Really Means” was written by Matt Davis.  Matt is a Victim Advisor at the Identity Theft Resource Center. We welcome you to repost the above article, as written, giving credit to the author and linking back to