As identity theft becomes more and more common, many consumers are starting to take precautionary steps against the possibility of having their information stolen when they're using 3G or Wi-Fi to access their bank accounts from their cell phones or laptops. However, while you may think your personal information is most vulnerable in public areas, such as a cafe or bus stop, there's another place you should be a little wary of: your home.
Why? Because even deleting your old files and cleaning your computer's Web history doesn't ensure your personal financial information is protected from online threats. Here are some tips that can help:
Understand how a computer stores files.
Often, a computer will index large files into smaller bits of data. That means that, even when you delete the file, remnants of it may remain. This happens regardless of what operating system you’re using, which is why you should be extra careful about how you dispose of the personal information you store on it, such as your credit card information, Social Security number, and bank account data. Always take the extra steps necessary to eradicate a file altogether, and overwrite them. But be careful. It’s a tricky process that could lead to lost information if you don’t do it correctly.
Know how to properly clean a hard drive.
This is an important step in protecting yourself from identity theft. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the first thing you should do when you’re cleaning your hard drive is to save your important information on an external hard drive, or transfer it to another computer. Keep in mind: An inexpensive utility program can get rid of certain files, but if you really want to decrease your risk for identity theft, you should consider using a program that either overwrites or wipes clean your hard drive several times.
Get extra protection to help you monitor for identity theft. Even when you clean your hard drive on a regular basis, it can still be infiltrated by hackers or harmful viruses that may leave you at risk for someone taking advantage of your finances, if you shop, bank or manage your accounts online. So what’s your next step? One of the best ways to reduce your risk for this kind of theft is to invest in a service that can help you stay alert to certain activity in your accounts. For instance, a credit monitoring service will deliver prompt alerts directly to you with detailed information on certain new data found in your credit reports. Not only can this help you stay up-to-date on the status of your credit, it can also help protect you against identity theft.