Although it’s often out of our hands due to various services suffering data breaches or compromising our confidential, personally identifiable information, you can still protect yourself to some degree.

Here are a few of the things I do:

Banking and Credit

Get alerts via your bank mobile app for all transactions and password all transactions.

I love knowing when funds come out of my bank account. Add a password or pin# to all bank account transactions. It takes an instant, but without it, it may be difficult for folks to access your accounts. And, of course, change these.

Move away from debit cards.

Switch from debit cards to protected credit cards, or use Paypal as an intermediary account. Make a decision to NOT use your debit card or write print checks with your routing and account # on them. 

Freeze your credit reports to prevent new accounts. 

It prevents others from opening new accounts in my name unless they have my special PIN#. These approaches aren’t foolproof but they do help. Credit Freeze sites:

Online Social Security account.

Create the account before the bad guys do. Problem is, if you froze your credit reports, you’ll have to go in person to the Social Security Admin building.

File tax return early.

If you don’t do it, they will. If sending confidential documents via email, use a service like BitWarden Send.

Check your credit frequently.**

One way to do that is to use Annual Credit Reports. It provides a free service, but you may need to pay to get that more often.

Sign up for Identity Theft Alert

Fill out this form to notify the credit agencies of potential identity theft.

File and Folder Encryption on USB External Drives

Everyone I know relies on USB external drives, as well as cloud storage. For cloud storage, only store documents that you are collaborating with others about and do not reveal sensitive data. For other documents, encrypt your data at rest on your computer/device hard drive or when it’s stored on USB external drives. You can also encrypt data and put it in the cloud, if that’s what you want to do.

I also recommend the following:

  • Setup an encrypted email (e.g. ProtonMail) for financial accounts.

  • Setup 2-factor authentication using an Authenticator app for all email, cloud storage, digital accounts.

  • Use secure passwords. I like to use secure password generator then add my own twist to it. I end up with a secure password that I keep track of using a password manager (e.g. Keepass, BitWarden).

  • Get more than one form of ID, such as passport, passport card, and driver’s license. You never know when you will have to prove you are who you say you are.

  • Encrypt confidential data documents you have saved in cloud storage (e.g. Google Drive, OneDrive, Dropbox), as well as when they are “at rest” on your laptop or USB external drives. Some free tools include: