| By Susan Bradley |
Common sense prevents us from leaving our wallets or purses out where anyone could pilfer them, yet we’re not so careful when sending sensitive information by e-mail or other digital methods.
Keeping your important personal data and documents secure when they’re on the move requires a few extra — but necessary — steps if you want to protect your finances.
Somebody is out to get you and your data
Have you ever received an e-mail message from your bank or other financial institution asking you to provide your password, social security number, tax ID, or other identification? If so, the chances are excellent it was someone trying to make you the next victim of identity theft. And it’s not just solicitations by e-mail: instant messages, social-networking sites, faxes, snail mail, and almost all other forms of communication short of carrier pigeon might be an attempt to steal your personal data.
Add the revelations of security breaches at companies who already possess our personal info, and we’d be best off never sending critical data over the Internet. Unfortunately, that’s not practical in this digital age. For example, I work in the accounting business; almost all of the personal information we handle is confidential. And while we follow strict security policies within our office, I am constantly surprised by how insecurely others, including fellow accountants and attorneys, handle their sensitive information.
Basic steps for securely moving sensitive data
From e-mails to conversations over the phone, here are some key rules to follow:
1 – If asked, don’t give. It’s astounding how many people hand over their passwords to any caller who simply asks. The caller might say she’s from the company IT department and the company needs to update your system. Or the caller might tell you he works at your bank, there’s been a computer failure, and he needs to confirm your password.
Anytime someone calls, e-mails, or otherwise requests your full name, address, and account information, it’s almost assuredly a scam. The companies you work with regularly already have that information. At most, legitimate businesses might ask for your ZIP code or the last few digits of your tax ID number — bits of information that are effectively useless to an identity thief.