Keep Your Identity Safe
By Neal O'Farrell
Date: September 25, 2003
Leading security expert tells you how to keep your personal information secure.
On tonight's "Screen Savers" I'm talking about the software and tactics law enforcement agents use to fight cybercrime. But keeping your information secure starts at home. Here are a few simple things you can do to keep yourself and your small business safe from identity theft.
Ten easy ways to protect yourself
1. Take identity theft seriously. It's America's fastest-growing crime and you don't want to be a victim.
2. Think security first! Vigilance and awareness are key.
3. Never let your guard down. Anyone, including family, friends, employees, co-workers, waiters, and even employers, can commit the crime anywhere.
4. Lock down your computer. Make sure you have a firewall, virus protection, and encryption on every computer you use.
5. Check your credit report at least once a year, ideally once every six months. It can provide a valuable early warning of a problem.
6. Have a response plan in case you become a victim. The quicker you respond to identity theft, the less it will cost you. Your plan should include contacts for all relevant organizations, such as credit agencies, credit card companies, and banks, and the forms you need to fill out.
7. Shred all unnecessary financial documents, especially pre-approved credit card offers.
8. Protect your mail. Many identity thefts begin and end with mail theft.
9. Educate your family. A mistake by one member of your family can expose the entire family.
10. Guard hot information, especially social security numbers, copies of tax returns, and passwords.
Ten easy ways to protect your small business
1. Make security as important as profit. Without adequate security, you risk everything else.
2. Use encryption to protect hot targets such as customer credit cards and employee payroll records.
3. Teach employees about better awareness and the role they can play in security.
4. Guard against theft by insiders and employees. Family, friends, employees, and co-workers commit most identity theft.
5. Create a security plan and policy, even if each is only a single page. These could protect you from lawyers who may try to take advantage of victims of identity theft.
6. Have a response plan that includes critical contact numbers, as well as your legal and crisis-management strategies.
7. Avoid storing sensitive information on computers connected to the Internet.
8. Make sure any critical partners, from payroll services to your CPA, take security as seriously as you do.
9. Conduct background security checks, ideally on every employee, but at least on employees with access to confidential information.
10. Use a cross-cut shredder to dispose of all unnecessary financial documents, from old checkbooks and financial statements to pre-approved credit card offers and old employee records.
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