In the past, all you had to do is lock your valuables or be able to defend them physically (while in a pouch around your waist) to keep them safe. However, you also had at your disposal only what you had on you or could get in a matter of days. Today, you can get a massive amount of funding without ever going to a bank and have the option of using a phone to take advantage of every single penny that you own.
Keeping these funds safe, however, is far more complex than ever before. After all, if they’re more easily accessible to you, they’re easily accessible to other people as well. With that in mind and without further ado, here’s how you can protect your financial information.
1. Be Careful Whom You Trust
The first thing you need to understand is that you should never disclose sensitive financial information via email or IM chat. No, a bank employee will never ask you to send them your PIN via email.
The reason why this rule is so difficult to follow is that both phishing and pharming are incredibly hard to recognize. The email that a scammer sends you will hold the same signature, the same PDF file, and some of the same phrasings as the emails that you usually get from the bank. So, how do you tell them apart? Well, usually by their content. If they ask you to reveal the aforementioned information via email, then the whole situation is quite suspicious.
Also, avoid disclosing this information via phone or even in person. Generally speaking, if you weren’t the one who initiated the contact, you should always be a bit suspicious.
2. Think About the Entire Path
Some financial information will still arrive via mail. So, what if someone reaches the mailbox before you do? Sometimes, you just throw things out in the garbage. So, what happens if someone just picks it up? The key thing is that you try to visualize the entire path of these non-digital forms of information and prevent leaks every step of the way.
This means checking your mailbox regularly or changing your mailbox entirely. In general, mail slots are far more secure, so, it might be a good idea to make a switch (if you haven’t already). Also, you want to make sure that paper containing personal information is shredded or destroyed before being deposed.
While digital data is not 100% secure either, the truth is that it’s a lot easier to protect it proactively. Still, if you take the necessary steps with your physical data, you should be able to do quite a bit.
3. Protect Yourself Digitally
Cybercrime will cost $10.5 billion annually by the year 2025 (which is a lot closer than you expect). To stay safe, you need to learn how to protect yourself in the digital environment.
The majority of financial information that you’re handling probably exists in digital form. To protect it, you need to improve your cybersecurity. First of all, you want to keep your operating system and software up to date.
Having a decent (and updated) antivirus goes a long way here. Second, you need to watch out for the type of Wi-Fi that you’re using. The use of a strong password and an introduction of a VPN into your routine are also quite important. In other words, by enriching your cybersecurity arsenal (relying on VPNs, antimalware, and antivirus a lot more), you can make quite a difference.
4. Quick Recovery
It’s not uncommon for people to crack your password, infiltrate your accounts or even steal your identity. Fortunately, there are methods for quickly recovering from identity theft that you can do as damage control.
No, we’re still not living in a cyberpunk world where someone can steal all that you own with a click of a single button. It takes time for them to infiltrate all your accounts and clean them out. It also takes a while for them to misuse your identity by registering in different places or impersonating you. So, if you’re quick enough to realize that your identity has been stolen, there are quite a few things you can do about it.
The problem lies in the fact that you’ll have to take it one step at a time. This means contacting your bank and credit card issuer, as well as changing your passwords and Pins on every account you own. It takes a while but it’s quite manageable.
5. Track Your Financial Records
Previously, we’ve mentioned the likelihood that you’ll be “cleaned out”, however, the majority of hackers and scammers don’t necessarily work this way. What if they could use your financial information to make small purchases or place small orders several times per month? This might be something that you won’t even feel, even if it comes via a card that you haven’t used in a while.
Now, when we say that you won’t feel it, we don’t mean that it won’t become a serious problem. cumulatively, over the course of months and years, it will become a major issue. However, it won’t be the problem right away and it might take you a while to figure it out.
So, the key thing you need to focus on is the prospect of tracking your financial records regularly. If there’s a purchase that you don’t remember or know for a fact that you didn’t place, it might be the right time for you to act.
6. Sign Up for Free Credit Monitoring
The simplest way to stay ahead of all this is to sign up for free credit monitoring. Having credit reports issued in real time will alert you as soon as someone uses your finances without your knowledge.
Some companies charge for this service (with extra features) but there are also platforms out there that perform this service for free.
Now, this is not just useful for keeping track of your data but it may help you stay on the budget, as well. Sometimes, your finances may need some extra protection for yourself, as well.
7. Rectify Your Behavior
While you may blame this on the financial system, the truth is that if you’re careless with your financial information, there’s no way of protecting you. What if someone’s looking over your shoulder while you’re at the ATM? What if you have a PIN on a piece of paper in your wallet (because you just can’t memorize it)? How about a scenario in which you give a PIN to your partner shortly before breaking up?
All of the above-listed goes for your passwords and other personal info, as well. Two-step authentication, biometrics, security questions, etc. all of these methods work as long as you’re otherwise careful. However, if you’re reckless with your financial info, there’s no way of protecting you.
Also, it’s far safer to go for a generic PIN than to pick one on your own. According to one study, a competent thief can guess the four-digit pin of one payment card in every 11-18 wallets they steal. When you come to think of it, this is a very discouraging statistic.
Protecting your financial information is your own personal responsibility. What you need to do is develop an awareness of risky behaviors and do your best to avoid them. You also need to inform yourself of how you can recognize that your financial information has been compromised so that you can act right away. Most importantly, you need to learn how to keep your funds safe in a digital world.