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Keeping your personal financial information secure is extremely important, especially when it comes to your social security number, user names, and passwords for your online accounts. Should the worst happen, identity theft can take years to reverse. And that doesn’t include the emotional stress of trying to get your life back in order. If your identity is actually compromised, you might need to hire a lawyer to help you and that process can be extremely expensive.
It’s best to take a proactive approach. Be vigilant about protecting your private information. By now, we all know the basics of online security:
Let’s take things a step further. Here are six additional easy ways to help keep your finances secure.
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1. Use Complex, Personally Relevant Passwords
We all know to keep our passwords to ourselves and change them regularly. The most secure passwords are ones that contain a variety of letters, numbers, and symbols. These can be hard to remember, though, so many people resort to the same password over and over again for all of their accounts. This is not recommended because if a hacker discovers a password to one account, they could potentially access multiple accounts. Some people use programs to manage their passwords but these are also vulnerable to some degree. Best practice is to create complex passwords that are personally relevant to you and thus, easy to remember. But avoid the obvious. Don’t incorporate things like birthdays or addresses into your passwords.
2. Sign Up For Credit Reports and Alerts
Every person is eligible to get three free credit reports annually, one from each of the three credit bureaus. You can get these by going to AnnualCreditReport.com. Many financial experts recommend getting one credit report every four months instead of getting all three at once. That way, you can monitor your credit report all year long. Getting your credit report regularly is a great way to ensure your credit is free from fraudulent activity.
To take it a step further, you can sign up for credit alerts. There are free services out there like Credit Sesame and Credit Karma that will alert you if your spending is too high or if you opened a new card. They also let you know when you completely pay off a card or if you’re eligible for balance transfer offers to help reduce your debt. When it comes to free credit monitoring, this extra layer of protection goes beyond your own ability to check your bank account every day and instead scans at least one of your credit reports to ensure no accounts are opened without your knowledge.
3. Take Care When Accepting Friend Requests on Social Media
Some people accept friend requests a little too quickly on social media. Perhaps they assume they must know them if they received a request from them. Or maybe they don’t want to seem rude or offensive. But it’s well worth it to carefully vet anyone who wants to connect with you. Hackers are very skilled and those with dubious intentions can use information stored in your personal social media accounts to break into your private bank accounts. Something as simple as your birthday or your mom commenting on your account with her maiden name easily visible can give someone information they could potentially use against you. So, if you don’t know someone who is requesting a connection, simply ignore or block them.
4. Go Paperless
It might be time to check your accounts to see if they offer automation or a paperless option. When you automate your accounts and choose paperless billing, you eliminate the risk of having someone read your physical mail. Just be sure to keep the passwords to your email and bank accounts complicated so someone won’t be able to view the information you store online.
5. Get a Shredder
For those accounts that you’ve not yet automated, consider buying a shredder. Do you get a ton of credit card offers in the mail? What about basic bills? Sometimes even simple bills or offers can contain important, personal information you don’t want to share. Take the extra step and shred paperwork. If you don’t want to go to the expense of buying a shredder, many credit unions and financial institutions offer Shred Days so you can take your sensitive information and get it shredded for free.
6. Choose Your Financial Advisors Wisely
Keeping your finances secure goes beyond passwords and secure Internet access. It also involves managing the relationships you have with people who know your financial information. This might include your mortgage lenders, financial advisors, or even contractors who work on your house.
Before you hire anyone or take out a loan with a bank, be sure to speak with other people and read reviews. Make sure that the people and companies who handle your money and private information are trustworthy and that others haven’t had bad experiences with them.
Ultimately, keeping your finances secure requires common sense and vigilance. But if you follow these tips, you’ll be well on your way to keeping your information secure.
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