How to Keep Your Personal Info Secure Offline

Monday, May 09 at 11:20 AM
Category: Personal Finance

This is the first of a three-part series on protecting your personal information.

Protecting your personal information can help reduce your risk of identity theft. There are several main ways to do it:
  • Know who you share information with
  • Store and dispose of your personal information securely, especially your Social Security Number
  • Ask questions before deciding to share your personal information
Lock It Up
Lock your financial documents and records in a safe place at home, and lock your wallet or purse in a safe place at work. Keep your information secure from roommates or workers who come into your home.
 
Limit what you carry. When you go out, take only the identification, credit cards and debit cards you need. Leave your Social Security card at home. Make a copy of your Medicare card and black out all but the last four digits on the copy. Carry the copy with you — unless you are going to use your card at the doctor’s office.

Ask
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.

Shred It
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. Destroy the labels on prescription bottles before you throw them out. Don’t share your health plan information with anyone who offers free health services or products.

Manage Your Mail
Take outgoing mail to the post office. Promptly remove mail that arrives in your mailbox. If you won’t be home for several days, request a vacation hold* on your mail. When you order new checks, don’t have them mailed to your home, unless you have a secure mailbox with a lock.

Opt Out
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 (888) 567-8688 or go to optoutprescreen.com*. The three nationwide credit reporting companies operate the phone number and website. Prescreened offers can provide many benefits. If you opt out, you may miss out on some offers of credit.

Secure 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. If someone asks you to share your or your child’s Social Security number, ask:
  • Why they need it
  • How it will be used
  • How they will protect it
  • What happens if you don’t share the number
The decision to share is yours. A business may not provide you with a service or benefit if you don’t provide your number. Sometimes you will have to share your number. Your employer and financial institutions need your Social Security number for wage and tax reporting purposes. A business may ask for your Social Security number so they can check your credit when you apply for a loan, rent an apartment or sign up for utility service. 
 
Information courtesy of FTC Consumer Information.

Links marked with * go to a third-party site not operated or endorsed by Arvest Bank, an FDIC-insured institution. 

Tags: Consumer Protection, Privacy and Security
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