There is nothing more important than keeping your personal information secure so that you can prevent identity theft. This information is the gateway to your financial institutions, medical records, credit score and other important personal records. With such high stakes if this information is ever compromised, a toolkit of tips on how to keep this information secure and protect you from identity theft is invaluable.

How to Keep Your Personal Information Secure

What is your personal information?

  • Name and Address
  • Credit card or bank account numbers
  • Social Security number
  • Medical Insurance account numbers and other medical account numbers

Best Practices to Keep Your Personal Information Safe

Here is a quick list of steps you can take to keep your personal information safe.

  1. Know who you share information with.

  2. Store and dispose your personal information securely.

    • In most communities there are businesses or banks that offer shred days so that you safely dispose of documents with personal information on them if you do not have a way to destroy paper items at home.

  3. Question any situation where you will be sharing your personal information.

    • Only give your Social Security number when necessary, if another account or ID number is available, use this number.

    • Do not give out your personal information out over the phone or email.

  4. Keep your computer(s) and mobile device(s) secure.

    • Use passwords that are hard to guess and use capitalization, numbers and symbols when possible.

    • Do not respond to emails that ask you to "click through" a link to enter in your personal information.

    • Do not use a public computer (like the library) to shop online and enter personal information.

Keep reading below for even more details on these quick tips. (Consumer.gov)

Keeping Your Personal Information Secure Offline

  1. Keep your financial records, Social Security cards and insurance cards in a safe place like a safe or locked drawer.

  2. At work, lock your purse and/or wallet in a safe place.

  3. Only take the identification and credit/debit cards that you need with you out of the house.

  4. Shred papers that have your personal information on them. This includes credit offers, credit applications, insurance forms, medical bill statements, checks, bank statements and expired credit/debit cards.

  5. Take the mail out of your mailbox every day.

  6. Remove labels from your prescription bottles before you discard them. Then shred the labels with the rest of your paper items that contain personal information.

  7. Consider opting out of prescreened credit and insurance offers by calling 1-888-567-8688 or go to www.optoutprescreen.com. You can choose to opt out for 5 years or permanently.

  8. When you order new checks from the bank, only have them delivered to your home if you have a mailbox with a lock on it.

Keeping Your Info Secure Online

  1. Know whom you are giving your personal information. Only give this information out if you know for sure whom you are interacting with, or you initiated the contact.

  2. If you receive an e-mail from a known company that you normally deal with and it asks for you to enter personal information and provides a link to enter it in, DO NOT click on the link. Instead, go directly to their site using your own log-in information. You can also give the company a call at their main customer care contact number. Doing this will insure that they really need the requested account information.

  3. Shop on secure websites (these usually have sites that start with "https").

  4. Before you dispose of a computer, wipe the utility program and overwrite the entire hard drive to make sure that all person information stored on the computer is gone.

  5. Before you dispose of a mobile device, determine how you can permanently delete the information contained on the phone and make sure to remove any SIM or memory cards as they will also have stored personal information.

  6. Use a computer software program that encrypts your data while using your internet browser. When this type of tool is turned on you will see a "lock" icon on the status bar of your web browser to know that your information will be safe after it is transmitted.

  7. Use passwords that are hard to guess and keep them private.

  8. Try not to post too much personal information on your social networking accounts. The information found on social networking can be used by identity thieves. With this information in hand, they can answer your challenge questions or gain access to other personal and financial information.

    • Also consider making sure that your social media network is shared with only a small group of people.

    • NEVER post your full name, Social Security number, address, phone number or account numbers in publicly accessible sites.

Keeping Your Electronic Devices Secure

  1. Use a computer security software program. Keeping your computer secure:

  2. Avoid opening files, clicking links or downloading programs sent to you from strangers.

  3. Be careful when using public Wi-Fi- not all public Wi-Fi networks are encrypted, and if they aren't you may be sending your personal information out for anyone to intercept.

  4. Do not use a public computer (like the library) to shop online and enter personal information.

  5. Lock your laptop and make sure to disable the feature that automatically saves your log-in information. Also try not to store your personal information on the hard drive of your laptop. If your laptop is stolen, the thief will have a harder time getting your personal information if you follow these precautions.

Securing Your Social Security Number

  1. Leave your Social Security card at home. You do not usually need to have it on your person and having it with you all time increases the risk of the number falling into the wrong hands.

  2. ALWAYS ask why someone needs your Social Security number and not an account number or other personal identifier.

  3. Giving your Social Security number out is always your decision. You may or may not get a service or a benefit if you do not provide it.

  4. There are situations when you will need to give out your Social Security number including:

    • to an employer for wage and tax reporting purposes,
    • your financial institutions for reporting purposes,
    • businesses who may need it to check your credit when you apply for a loan, rent an apartment or open a new utility account