Protect your personal data

Protect your personal data

to shop, bank and keep in touch with friends on social networking sites, so the threat of ID fraud is increasing.

While there is little the individual can do to guard against government departments loosing track of our personal data, there is much the individual can do to increase the security of their personal information, and here are some handy hints and links.

Protect your PIN: Be extremely careful when using cash machines or checkouts in shops as thieves may try and steal your PIN by simply looking over your shoulder. Always keep your receipts and shred them. Never carry cards that you are not using, and when you are using a card to make a purchase, always keep the card in sight to avoid the card being cloned. If your cards are stolen, report them missing immediately.

Protect your post: Never throw away bills, receipts, card slips, bank statements or even junk mail that has any personal details. Cut them up, or preferably, shred them. Be particularly careful if you live in shared property, and keep track of when you are likely to receive bills. If you move home, be sure to notify banks etc in good time. If you suspect your post is being stolen, contact the Royal Mail Customer Enquiry Line on 08457 740 740 (call rates may vary) straight away. You can check whether a mail redirection order has been made in your name without your consent.

Protect your passwords: Put some thought into how you choose your passwords and do not use anything obvious, like birthdays and children’s names. Always use different passwords for different accounts. Never store passwords and security information on your computer. Avoid using public computers to access private information, either at work or in internet cafes or libraries, and always log out after each session.

Protect yourself on social networking sites: Keep personal information to yourself. Never include your full name, birthdate, place of birth, address, phone number, IM screen name, social security number or account numbers on your profile page, emails, instant messages or blogs. Be careful who you communicate with. It is easy for users to impersonate whoever they want in an attempt to gain your personal information. Do not post photos or information that you don’t want the world to see. Potential employers, colleges and the police are well aware of the growth in popularity of social networking sites.

Always use anti-virus and anti-spyware software, and a firewall, and update them all regularly. Set up your operating system and web browser properly, and update them regularly.

You can also obtain a copy of your personal credit file from a credit reference agency to see if it includes any entries that you don’t recognise. If you find any, refer the matter to your local police station and ask for a crime reference number. You will need this to help correct your credit file.

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