Protect Your Personal Information

Thanks, Target…your lack of security measures to protect customer’s financial information has made more work for me and millions of other shoppers. I’m checking bank and credit card accounts daily and have contacted financial institutions…just what I wanted to do over the holidays.

However, this is a good reminder that we all need to protect our personal information on a daily basis. Here’s a few steps you can take to protect yourself.

Change passwords. I’ve read that passwords should be changed monthly so I’ve got some work to do on this front. Make sure your password is strong enough to protect your account. Use symbols, numbers, capital letters, and avoid simple phrases. Check out these password tips.

Monitor bank account & charge card accounts. You should do this at least monthly, checking your statement with a fine tooth comb, but if you suspect your account could be compromised (like those of us who shopped at Target) check more frequently. I’m currently on the daily plan!

Shred. Shred. Shred. Buy a shredder and shred bank statements and bills and all of those credit card applications that litter your mailbox.

Pay for online purchases with a credit card instead of a debit card since federal laws offer more consumer protection on purchases made with credit cards. In fact, using a PayPal account may be a better alternative since it limits the number of sites with access to your credit card information. (I know using a debit card feels better than paying on credit, but you can avoid racking up interest charges on those credit card purchases by making a payment on your credit card immediately.)

Don’t carry your Social Security card. What could be easier? Just make sure you know where you’ve placed your card for safe keeping.

Order your free credit reports. Since you’re entitled to a free credit report from each of the three credit bureaus annually, if you stagger the requests, you can check every four months at no cost. (DON’T GET SUCKERED INTO USING SERVICES THAT CHARGE!) Instead order from or from the services directly – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.

Consider using cash. If I’d made my purchases at Target with cash instead of a debit card, I’d have fewer worries today. Another bonus with cash, it’s a great way to go on a spending diet.

I know these things take time. I know they’re not fun. I also know I don’t have time to deal with an even bigger problem if my personal information is stolen so I’ll devote some time this week to changing passwords, shredding, and ordering a credit report. I hope you’ll do the same. This Identity Theft Prevention Checklist offers additional tips you may find useful.

Protect your personal information.