Shields Up - Protecting Your Information

You must do everything you can to protect yourself from fraud and identity theft. A good place to start is with your credit cards. So many consumers take credit cards for granted, true they are a great convenience, but they must be managed wisely. The last thing you want to happen is to use your credit card and then to have that information end up in the wrong hands. You must always be vigilant.

If you give your credit card to anyone who takes it from your sight, (this is fairly common place in restaurants nowadays) process your charge, and then return it to you, make sure it is your card. So many card users don’t really inspect the card when it is returned to them and then they end up with someone else’s old expired card. I have actually heard of this happening so watch who you give your card to and make sure it is your card when it is returned to you.

I have either read the following story or it was part of televised news segment. I wish I could remember where specifically so I could give you the source. A customer went to a local pizza place to pick up his order. He gave the clerk his credit card then the customer noticed the young clerk was playing with his cell phone, taking pictures. The only reason the customer paid any attention to this was because he had the same phone as the clerk. It was not until after he had paid for his order and was on his way home he realized that the clerk was using a camera phone to take a picture of his credit card. So when you hand your credit card over to someone else try to keep an eye on it as much as possible.

While I am on the subject of credit card usage I might as well talk about using a credit card on line. It is very important that you do your homework and thoroughly check each company you plan to do business with. It is one thing to do business with a fraudulent internet company that might just take your credit card payment and not deliver to you what you paid for, but it’s a whole other ballgame when that company takes your credit card information and uses it for other fraudulent purposes.

When it comes to your social security number, again know who you are doing business with. Giving your social security number to the wrong person is a serious step leading to someone stealing your identity. Similarly, when you are destroying old files, bank records, tax records, or any paperwork that has your social security number or any personal information for that matter should be destroyed by shredding or incineration.

Here are a couple of things you need to consider regarding your checking account. Because of the personal information on your printed checks you need to take extra care to insure that personal information stays as secure as possible. Remember, your checks have more than just your name, address, and phone number.  The account number along with the routing number is printed on every check.  Here are a few tips.

1. Always know where your checkbook is.

2. Store your unused and cancelled checks in secure and safe place.

3. If you destroy checks that you no longer need or want, always shred or burn them.

Be careful what you throw away, your trash is not sacred, and in fact it becomes public information. Identity thieves will resort to any and all tactics available to them. Some will go so far as to search through dumpsters and other trash receptacles looking for paper and bills with personal information that they can exploit. I get tons of credit card offers each week in the mail. I just don’t blindly throw them away. It’s a pain in the…neck, but I open each one, shred the application, and throw the rest in my recycle bin. An identity thief can use something as simple as a change of address form to divert your mail and gain access to your credit card billing statements.

In the world of computers and other electronic devices, it seems like what you buy today is obsolete tomorrow. Since the start of the computer and internet age, just take a look back and think how many computers have you owned over the years. Computers appear to be getting faster and smarter. If you’re like me, you have probably upgraded your computers as the years have gone by, and now I have a question for you, what did you do with your old and outdated computers? Yes, me too, I have either donated or recycled them. That brings up another question, what did you do with the data and sensitive information you had stored on your old computer? Hopefully you removed it in some way.

Whenever you do donate or recycle your old computers it would be wise to completely remove all of your personal information because this is also what cyber criminals are looking for. You certainly don’t want any of your personal and sensitive information to fall into the hands of strangers much less the bad guys that know exactly what to do with it. That is one good reason why it is extremely important that you know the exact location of all of your important and sensitive files and by doing so you will ensure that there are no extra copies floating around out there in the cyber world. I have four places where I keep data and they are my laptop and desktop computers, as well as a separate external hard drive storage that is not connected to the internet, and archived data burned on compact discs that are stored away, all in an effort to ensure backup.

There are only two ways to ensure complete data security when donating or recycling old computers and one of those ways is not reformatting the hard drive. Some computer users think that reformatting the hard drive will delete or get rid of data. However some cyber criminals are very smart and know how to retrieve information from a formatted hard drive and there are sophisticated software programs that help them in their retrieval efforts as well. There are really only two options in permanently deleting files from your hard drive, one is called data wiping and the other is destroying the hard drive. Actually there is a third way in which the hard drive is demagnetized. It’s called degaussing but it isn’t very practical, the machine required to do this can be kind of pricey, or if you trust a company that provides this service, you can bet you’ll pay a fee. Go on line or to your local computer retailer and check the prices of hard drives, shop around, you may find that hard drives aren’t really all that expensive and can be replaced.

Here’s what I would do if I were going to donate an old computer. If the replacement hard drive is expensive I would consider doing a data wipe. I would have to invest in a software program that would completely erase or delete all information. Then I would format the hard drive and install the operating system. Now I have the confidence in knowing that there are no personal files and essentially the computer would be close to the way it was when it was first activated. If the hard drive is fairly inexpensive to replace, I would remove the existing hard drive and destroy it, and I would do this if I were going to recycle it as well. By destroying the hard drive the new owner may have some flexibility in installing a new drive better suited for their particular needs. I would not buy a degaussing machine or pay to trust someone to demagnetize the hard drive. I would sooner drive a nail through it which would absolutely guarantee that no one would be able to use that hard drive for anything. If you do decide to destroy your hard drive in this or any similar manner, it would be a good idea to wear eye protection and any other protective gear you think necessary. If you have personal or sensitive information stored on compact discs (CD) or digital video discs (DVD) and you want to destroy that information you might consider a pair of specialized cutters made for the job. If you don’t have too many CDs or DVDs to destroy, you could use a plastic trash bag, cut the CD in there and scratch the data side or even better, use sandpaper. Wear eye protection, and wear gloves.

Speaking of smart phones and other mobile electronics, you probably upgrade these types of devices more than you would your desktops and laptops, but don’t forget, they also contain personal and sensitive information. The good thing is you can probably find a tool or an application that can erase those files for you, and it’s also a good idea to do a factory data reset once those files and other information are deleted to ensure they stay deleted. Don’t forget to remove the SD card. When it comes to electronics, you might as well recycle them as opposed to throwing them away, because you can’t just toss it in your regular trash. They require a specific disposition process in consideration of the environment, and these disposal centers are held accountable.

To be in compliance with United States Federal Trade Commission Regulations, I must tell you that I, or my publishing company, may receive a commission from the sale of these products or programs. It takes a great deal of time to research, investigate, assemble, and publish, and to be honest, the few dollars  in commissions I, or my company, make in bringing you the best of the best in programs are what keeps my company going.  Allow me to take this time to thank you for reading this article and reviewing the following offers.

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