First and foremost, you have to keep your passwords strong, secure and up-to-date. A strong password does not include any personal information that might be easy to guess, like birth dates, children's names, street address, etc. A really good password will include upper and lower case letters, numbers and special characters such as ! or *. The stronger your password, the better your personal security. You may also want to change your password periodically. Some sites force you to change your password at least every quarter.
Another issue to consider is how you receive your statements. You should really consider signing up for eStatements for all of your financial service providers (banks, credit unions, brokers and lenders). Some people are still afraid of getting eStatements, but it's actually more secure than getting paper statements in the mail!
First, the statements are not actually sent through your e-mail. You simply receive a notification to log on to your account (using that oh-so-strong-password you've now set up) to view or download your statement.
Second, raiding mailboxes is an increasingly popular method for identity thieves to get personal information about you. In fact, your mailbox is the riskiest non-technological point for identity theft, according to a study released in 2007.
Though financial institutions and the media have warned against these time and time again, they bear repeating:
- NEVER give personal information to anyone who calls you or e-mails you. Instead, let them know that you will call back (and find the phone number yourself) if what they have to offer interests you. Only call, e-mail or click on links that you have verified to be legitimate.
- NEVER keep your personal identification number with your ATM or debit card - anyone finding that has the "keys to the kingdom" - or at least to your account!!