Managing Identity Security in a Digital World
Everywhere we go these days we come up against electronic devices to guarantee who we are and electronic ways to pay for things. All of these electronic devices pose a threat to the security or our identities.
A few simple rules and practices can help you protect yourself both in the digital world and the physical world.
Protecting Your Signature
If you shop at places like Safeway, Home Depot or CVS and you use a credit or debit card to pay for your purchases you will be asked for a signature on a digital point-of-sale terminal. Few people realize what they are actually doing when they sign in the electronic box. The reality is you are creating a digital image of your signature in a computer file.
While merchants go to great lengths to protect the security of their computer systems, any computer can be accessed by unauthorized people. That means there is a possibiltiy that your true signature can be stolen.
Precaution: When you sign on the digital line, include with your signature the store name and the current date in the signature box. If your digital signature file is ever stolen, including the store name and the date may make it unusable for fraudulent transactions.
Watch your credit card statements carefully. Keep an eye out for transactions that you didn't make. Bank security and fraud prevention techniques for credit cards are usually very good, but they won't catch everything. You are the first line of defense for your credit.
Simplify the Task: The two most frequent transactions on my credit cards are for restaurants and gasoline. In restaurants I round the tip up to the next nearest whole dollar amount so that every restaurant purchase ends in .00. For gasoline purchases rounding the the next nearest dollar isn't always possible so I round to the nearest quarter dollar. This makes all my gasoline transactions end in either .00, .25. 50 or .75. Anything on my credit card statement that doesn't end in .00, .25, .50
or .75 is subject to a closer look.
If you do a lot of online shopping, use a credit card account that is only for online shopping. Keep it at home and don't put it in your wallet. This way you can watch the account more carefully and you know every transaction was done online. Keep it in a secure place at home.
What's in Your Wallet?
Most people don't even know the answer to this question. But you should. Here is a list of things that don't belong in your wallet:
Social Security Card. This is a huge no-no. Take it out of your wallet and store it at home in a safe place.
Spare House Key. Put your eyes back in your head. I've seen people do this.
Auto Insurance Card. Take it out of your wallet and put it in the glove box in the car. Your insurance company will send you as many as you need.
More than two credit cards. Too many credit cards in your wallet means its more difficult to know when one is missing. I keep one Discover card and one MasterCard in my wallet. That covers transactions everywhere. I'll know right away if one is missing.
For your credit cards write down the credit card number, the three digit security code on the back of the card and the lost or stolen phone number from the back of the card. Keep this information in a safe place at home.
Every piece of mail you receive links your name and home address to where the mail came from in print. For example, the envelope your bank statement comes in links your name, address and bank name on one piece of paper. Catalogs link your name and address to where you shop.
It's the linkage of personal information that puts you at risk. Knowing your name, address and where you bank from one piece of paper is more information than can be found about you from any other single source.
Precaution: Don't throw empty envelopes or things with your name and address on them in the trash. A decent cross-cut paper shredder only costs about $30 or $40. Shred anything with your name on it before you throw it away.
A good paper shredder is also good for disposing of old documents or records, old checks, credit cards and identificaiton cards that shouldn't be in the trash in one piece.
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