1. Safeguard Your Social Security Number. Never give out your Social Security number over the phone, over email or to anyone—not even your closest friends and roommates, unless it is absolutely necessary. Your Social Security number is the best means for someone to unlock your identity, access your financial information, and open financial accounts under your name.
2. Shop on Secure Web Sites Only. Before you run your credit card at a web site, make sure the site is secure by checking the URL address. It should start with “https://” as opposed to “http://” (the “s” stands for secure), or have the official VeriSign seal of security on the homepage. If you’re buying from a company you’re not familiar with, take a close look at their web site. Is it well-constructed, professional, and user-friendly? Can you find the information you want to know about the company and the products? Are the products clearly and completely described? You can always confirm a company’s legitimacy by contacting your local Better Business Bureau.
3. Be Careful Using Public Wi-Fi. Though provided with generosity and good intentions, the free Wi-FI signals at your local park or coffee shop could lead you to harm’s way, especially if you log onto a network you accidentally think is legitimate. Stay safe and subscribe to a mobile Internet service and, when you’re not at home, connect to your Internet provider through a secure air card. Make sure your connection is password protected.
4. Shred Identifying Mail. Any mail that contains personal information such as your name, date of birth, address and/or Social Security number should be shredded before getting tossed in the trash. This includes bank statements, credit card offers, bills and even address labels on magazine covers.
Image by Kevin Coles, via Flickr