How to keep your information safe in the digital age

It seems like every few months we’re hearing about massive data breaches by one company or another. We trust these companies with our information, and they take security seriously, but thieves are always looking for ways to get our personal data.

Considering we now live in a digital age, our information may never be 100% safe, but it’s in our best interest to protect our privacy. From limiting your social posts to reading up on common scams, here are seven ways you can keep your information safe.

Change your PIN and passwords on a regular basis

It may seem like a hassle, but it never hurts to constantly change your PIN and passwords. I personally recommend people to change the PIN on their credit card and debit cards whenever they return home from a trip. If by chance your cards were cloned while abroad, it would be difficult for thieves to use them without the correct PIN.

As for your passwords, updating them once a year is likely enough – just make sure you’re picking something that’s hard to guess. Using a combination of upper/lower case characters, numbers and symbols is always the way to go.

Monitor your credit profile

The scary thing about identity theft is that you may not even realize you’re a victim right away. It’s a good idea to check your credit card statements weekly to see if there are any suspicious transactions. If you see something you don’t recognize, contact your credit card provider right away so they can investigate the charges.

It’s also well worth it to monitor your credit profile with TransUnion or Equifax. When subscribed, you’ll be alerted whenever there are any key changes to your credit report, which is essential if you want to catch thieves early. These services also give you unlimited access to your credit score so you can always check to see how you’re doing.

Be careful when using public Wi-Fi

Have you ever read the terms and conditions when you’ve logged into public Wi-Fi? Of course you haven’t, no one ever does – but did you know you could be signing away all your rights? Not only that, but public Wi-Fi isn’t always safe, as hackers can easily clone or create Wi-Fi spots that allow them to capture your data. If you do have to use public Wi-Fi, you’ll want to use a virtual private network (VPN) as it’ll protect your information while you’re connected.

Avoid excessive social media posts

Posting photos from your epic trip may give people some serious FOMO, but it also lets potential thieves know that you’re not home, which makes you a perfect target. You might be wondering why anyone would want to break into your home, but do you really want to take that chance when you don’t have to? There’s nothing wrong with showing off your vacation photos – you may just want to remove the location before you share it.

Update your software and apps right away

Do you get annoyed by the constant updates that your software and apps need? If you’re like me, you’ll delay the updates for weeks, but that could be a mistake. Many software patches are meant to fix any security holes that the developers have found, so delaying those updates could put you at risk. Try to install any software updates right away, or better yet, set your updates to begin automatically.

Research common scams

Most people know not to open suspicious attachments or links, but scams have evolved over the years and are becoming much more elaborate. One common scam is the CRA scam: someone phones claiming to be from the CRA and asks for all your personal information, or they’ll demand payment right away or else you’ll be arrested. Often these scams are obvious, but they can sometimes be convincing if you’re not prepared.

The Government of Canada has a ton of resources available to educate you about fraud including The Little Black Book of Scams, fraud types and how to protect yourself from fraud. By keeping up to date about fraud, you can quickly identify people who are trying to scam you. Even if you’re not sure if you’re being scammed, you’ll know what steps to take next before giving away your data.

Take advantage of extra security features

Many credit cards, apps and accounts offer extra security features, but it’s up to you to activate them. For example, many apps allow you to use fingerprint recognition to log in instead of a password or PIN. To ensure your accounts aren’t compromised, many banks allow you to set up two-factor authentication whenever you send money. This ensures that it’s actually you making the transfer. Even something simple such as switching your bills to paperless statements can help protect your information.

Final thoughts

Some of these tips may seem excessive or tedious, but don’t you want to keep your information safe? Thieves will always look for new ways to get to your personal data, so it’s up to you to try and keep pace so you don’t become a victim of fraud.

Barry Choi is a Toronto-based personal finance and travel expert who frequently makes media appearances. His blog Money We Have is one of Canada’s most trusted sources when it comes to money and travel. As a completely self-taught, do-it-yourself investor with no formal training, he makes money easy to understand for all Canadians. His specialties include personal finance, budget travel, millennial money, credit cards, and trending destinations.

Barry Choi is a paid spokesperson of Sonnet Insurance.

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