7 Steps to Keeping Your Financial Information Secure

Daniel Penzing
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Step 1: Regularly Check Your Credit Report

You might not realize it, but there is a personal credit score for every U.S. resident. And whether you like it or not, a third party will use this information to determine whether you are responsible and financially healthy. Many people start their first credit card or get their first mortgage, and they start to wonder how one company can just grant this type of loan without asking for much credit history. Well, your credit score has a lot to do with it.

Fortunately, you can build up your credit score by paying your financial obligations on time and in full. You can do this by checking your credit score often. The biggest tip of all is to always pay off the balance of your credit card on time and don’t carry a balance. Making regular payments on time helps your credit score; always paying your balance in full helps even more.

Step 2: Sign Up for Free Credit Monitoring

You may have seen the ads on television, and they are all over print media. Everyone is advertising free credit monitoring programs. Companies are banking on the idea that more free credit monitoring resources will lead to more business for them.

Always make sure you sign up for this free credit monitoring service from a reputable company.

Many of the free credit monitoring services provided by credit bureaux are fraudulant and will give you a monthly alert that fraud was detected but will not tell you what the problem was.

Never fill out any card information online. If you need to give your information to a vendor that you are working with, don’t use the web. Use a password protected file. If you don’t have a password protected file, create one.

It is also a good idea to make sure that you never carry a calculator with you. If you need to work out some math on your own, keep a paper and pencil at home. Then type that information into the program at home on your computer. By doing this, you will avoid getting your information stolen.

Step 3: Keep Personal Information off Social Networks

This can be a hard step for many people, but it is important for your peace of mind and for protecting yourself. Personal information includes anything that can easily identify you. This includes your name, address, phone number, birth date, and email address. Other personal information can include things like mother’s maiden name and children’s names.

Where is personal information found?

This can be in any number of places. An easy place to look is your credit card offers. They often have a lot of this information and send it right to your mailbox. You are more secure if you read these and throw them away. You can also look in your paperwork that come in the mail or when you get medical or health information.

Social networking is a hot topic. Many people want to stay in touch with friends by using this technology, but it is a great avenue for thieves to access your personal information.

If you are one of those that loves the benefits of keeping in touch with friends through social networks, try this method. Use business cards. Create your own business cards and be sure to include your social network handle. Hand these out to friends and family. This way, they will have you up-to-date information if they choose to stay in touch that way. It also helps you keep your information safe with people you know and trust.

Step 4: Use Two-Factor Authentication

When logging into your Google account on a phone or computer that isn’t registered to you, you usually see a drop-down box asking for a security code. You can sign in using just a password, or you can enable two-factor authentication, which is a nifty feature that can make your accounts a lot more secure.

Here’s how it works. When you enable two-factor authentication, Google (as well as other services) will ask for a security code whenever you sign in from a different device or IP address. You can install the Google Authenticator app on any device and generate security codes as long as you have your phone with you.

This makes it impossible for anyone to access your account from an unprotected device. While hackers are getting better at infecting devices with malware, and while they have even been able to access accounts that have the highest possible level of protection, having two-factor authentication enabled still makes it awfully difficult for them to succeed.

Fortunately, Google automatically enabled two-factor authentication for accounts with a recovery email address, so most of you will already be using this security feature. Make sure that you also enable two-factor authentication if you haven’t done so yet.

Step 5: Use a Secure Password Manager

The biggest and most common threat to online security comes from passwords. Most of your online accounts are secured with passwords “ email, banking, social networking “ and people tend to use the same passwords with all of their accounts. Just like someone who repeatedly steals packages once they learn a neighbor’s address, if you use the same password for two accounts, someone can grab a hold of one and try to use it with the others.

Solution: The best way to deal with this issue is to use unique, unique passwords for every account that you open and set aside time to change passwords often. But it’s not always feasible to do that. To avoid this issue, you should use a password manager program. There are a number of them available online, but it’s best not to use the ones available for free. Cybercriminals are always coming up with ways to get access to the accounts by stealing or guessing passwords. So it’s a good idea to use a paid service. After all, all that financial information you are storing online is worth a lot of money to someone else.

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Step 6: Be on Alert for Phishing and Other Nasty Tricks

If the bank or website appears to be in trouble and asks for your personal financial information,.

Don’t react by giving it to them. Most often, the scam is spread by e-mail and usually claims there is a problem with your account. It will include a link to the website where you can enter your information. Instead, type the website address directly into your browser and proceed.

If the website for your bank is ever entirely unavailable, call the bank’s customer-service line for an update or check online for information on when the site will be back up. You can also notify your bank about the problem through the appropriate contact number on the bank’s homepage.

Step 7: Put Your Credit on Lockdown

Yes, we know credit monitoring services are costing you a pretty penny, but hey … at least they’re protecting you from further damage if, heaven forbid, your data is breached.

So keep the plan going … you never know what kind of malicious plan that credit monitoring company’s credit monitoring service is monitoring.

Conclusion: Be Proactive, Not Reactive, With Your Sensitive Data

The Internet is a dangerous place when it comes to your financial information. And not just today’s Internet; even a decade ago, there were already endless opportunities for people to hack into your accounts.

This is the unfortunate reality of life in a digital world. So, the best you can do is arm yourself with some knowledge and take proactive measures to keep your most precious data safe.

Most importantly, whether you’re surfing the web or checking your e-mail, always log out when you’re done.

Also, when you visit linked websites, look to see if they’re encrypted. You should also have some kind of anti-virus software installed on your computer.

It probably goes without saying that you shouldn’t share your passwords with anyone (let alone your friends and family!). So make sure that you have unique passwords for each website. As a best practice, it’s always a good idea to change your passwords every few months.