Which of Our Personal Information Should We Protect?

Friday, November 16, 2012

Some people distribute information quite casually on the internet. Many of us live our private lives on social networks like Facebook and Twitter. Others, on the other hand, complain about any information that they have to submit in a public venue.   Although the people that don’t like to give their information on the internet might miss out on ease of online banking for example, they might be at a lesser risk for having their information stolen.

It can be argued that, in the 21st century, we have to have an internet presence to be socially and commercially successful. This makes the following question all the more pressing: Which of Our Personal Information Should We Protect?

Here are some suggestions for information that you definitely should protect:

  • Banking details: To keep your funds secure, make sure that you keep your banking details (cards, accounts and passwords) safe.  Never give out your pin, password or account information to anyone.  There are only two conditions where you should confidently hand over your bank account details. Firstly, give it to your bank for online banking, and ensure that you install their fishing protection software. Then they insure your potential losses due to electronic theft. Secondly, give your credit card details to only one of the large, credible, well-established online companies that facilitate credit card payments to online stores. This means that you do not have to give banking or credit card details to anyone else.

  • Your online banking details: Once you have signed up for internet banking, keep your password private.

  • Vary your passwords: Try not to have one password for everything.  Once your password has been stolen, then identity theft is likely.

  • Social Insurance Number (SIN): Your SIN is meant to be confidential; it is the information about you that will help identity thieves the most. Other than to your bank, employer and federal government agencies, you should never give this to anyone. Service providers and retailers cannot force you to relinquish it. If they try, The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada suggests that you report it to them.

  • Your physical address: While knowledge of your physical address alone won't help an identity thief much, it can help them obtain the last bits of information about you that they still lack. If you do not tear up your mail properly, for example, it is easy to obtain your bank account details and social insurance number once they have your address. A good idea is to acquire a post office box which you can share with friends.

  • Your phone number and email address: While it will be annoying to receive calls and mail from marketing organizations, there is not much else that identity thieves can do with your phone number and email address alone. If you have a pre-paid cellular phone and a second email address, provide those rather than your private ones.

  • Details of your movements and stories of your life: This is where social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter are potentially problematic. Your life's most personal details can give sexual predators or financial swindlers the ability to establish rapport with you. It also becomes harder to project, for example, a respectable image to a future employer if too much of your personal information is available.

While it is never possible to protect all our information, following these ideas may help protect your priority personal information.