Keeping your personal information safe becomes more challenging with the growth of technology. The first step is knowing if any of your information is already compromised. Everyone who uses the internet has a digital footprint. Your digital footprint is the sum of all the information about you that is available from the internet.
Your first step in understanding how much information is available about you on the internet would be to visit a site such as checkpeople.com. Data gathering sites like this compile information from public records, social media and various other sources across the internet. Running a check on yourself arms you with the information that is easily accessible to others.
After using checkpeople.com, use the power of Google to search for your name. The most effective way to limit search results is to use your first and last name, combined with your city and state. Use quotation marks to limit the search results to only results containing all that information. After checking the first two pages of search results, do not forget to check for images and videos associated with your information.
Now that you have a good idea about the information available, it is time to secure your data and keep it safe.
- Remove personal information from any social media profiles. Putting personal information on your profile is making it easy for potential scammers or other dangerous people to build a portfolio of information about you. Remove things like your date of birth, phone number, physical address, and email address. The people who are close to you already know that information so there is no reason to make it readily accessible on social media.
- Secure your devices. If anyone has access to your hardware or mobile devices, they will find a treasure trove of personal information. Password protect all your devices and make sure they are loaded with updated virus and malware protection.
- Guard your social security number carefully. Unless you are dealing directly with your bank, lender, employer or the IRS, there are few other times you should need to reveal your social security number. Guard your whole number and be careful about using just the last four digits. If someone with malicious intent and a good computer program has your birthday and the last four digits of your social security number, then it is not hard to determine the rest of the number. If a scammer has your social security number and date of birth, then you are at high risk for identity theft.
- Use a password vault or manager to generate secure and random passwords and have a unique password for each site that you use. Too often, people use the same password or some variation of the same password across multiple sites. Doing this puts you at risk for having numerous security breaches if a password is hacked.
- Turn on private browsing anytime you access the internet. Using the private browsing setting deletes cookies and empties the cache at the end of each browsing session.
- Consider using a virtual private network (VPN). A VPN hides your IP address making it impossible to track where you go and what you do while using the internet.
- Use two-factor authentication when accessing social media sites, Apple ID, Dropbox or other private accounts. Two-factor authentication means that when you log in you will be sent a code to a phone number or email you specify and you must enter the code to proceed. Many people find this time-consuming, but it is a great way to protect your information.