How many times have you thrown out a stack of papers without looking to see what was on them? Chances are good that sensitive information may have been tossed out with junk mail and old magazines. Crumpling papers or stuffing them whole in the trash is a very common practice at home. You may sometimes tear them in half, but that doesn't mean anything as far as confidentiality is concerned.
With cybercrime on the rise, we implement various tech solutions to keep our devices safe, but we often forget that almost all security breaches have a human error component. We fear being hacked but involuntarily help hackers get to us by not paying attention to details. We do that by clicking on harmful links and entering our information in fake online forms, by answering phone calls from unknown numbers and giving out important details about us, but also by carelessly throwing away sensitive documents. In fact, this is one of the most common mistakes we make in our everyday activities that later on lead to full-blown identity theft.
Here's how you can protect yourself from identity theft.
Identity Theft Prevention at Its Finest
If you care about identity protection and want to do everything you can to prevent identity theft, then you must do so on all levels, digital and human alike.
To achieve the best digital protection out there, install trustworthy antivirus and firewall software on all devices connected to the internet, as well as monitoring technology and alert tools that spot fraud early on and help you fight it. In order to keep human error at a minimum, never give out your personal, medical or financial details to third parties, either online or over the phone, and never dispose of your documents like you would of regular trash or recyclables.
How to Identify and Dispose of Sensitive Documents
The first step you must take in order to fix a problem is to acknowledge its existence. In the case of sensitive documents, this translates to identifying and separating them from other unnecessary papers you may have lying around.
To make it easier for you, here is what you should be on the lookout for: any printed e-mails, post-it notes with passwords or card PIN codes on them, anything that includes personal data — your address, passport number, Social Security number, etc. — financial data or records related to payments, payrolls and health.
If you are wondering what to do with such documents once you no longer need them and to make sure the information they contain cannot be used against you, the simplest and handiest solution is a paper shredder. Keep in mind that you don't need a professional-grade one, so the investment is minimal, but well worth it.
Eliminate Human Error to Reduce Identity Theft
Now that you are aware of common mistakes that can lead to identity theft, including throwing away important documents, there's no reason why you can't implement the advice above to protect yourself and your family against this type of fraud.