Today’s U.S. consumer faces security threats on more fronts than ever before. Two out of every five Americans have either been victims of identity theft or know someone who has, a Bankrate survey found. Meanwhile, 11 households in every 1,000 are burglarized annually, according to the latest FBI data. And over 220 out of every 100,000 people have their vehicles stolen each year, the Bureau says.
In the face of this array of security threats, staying safe means having a comprehensive plan to protect yourself and your loved ones. Here are three key strategies to help you keep your digital identity and physical property safe.
Protect Your Digital Identity
Today’s technology makes your digital identity a tempting target for thieves. Protect yourself by taking steps to guard essential information such as your Social Security number, bank account numbers and credit card numbers, advises the IRS.
Never give out sensitive information solicited by email senders or phone callers purporting to be from financial institutions or banks. Don’t carry your Social Security card with you; keep it in a secure location such as a safe or safe deposit box. Only share your SSN and other sensitive information when absolutely necessary.
When transmitting important personal or financial information online, be sure you’re using a secure connection such as a virtual private network, and only send information through sites with a secure HTTPS connection. Keep your device’s operating system, apps and antivirus updates current. Check your Social Security Administration earning statements and credit reports annually. Consider signing up for an identity protection service to alert you to potentially fraudulent use of your identity.
Guard Your Home
Burglars prefer to break into homes that look unoccupied and unprotected. Protect yourself by making it look like someone’s home. Parking a car in the driveway or leaving music on loudly when you’re gone can help create an appearance that someone is home.
Deny burglars opportunities for concealment by keeping bushes and trees trimmed and installing automatic lighting systems activated by motion sensors. Installing an alarm and surveillance system with prominent warning signs can also serve as a deterrent. Keep security wiring concealed so burglars can’t cut your wires or use wireless equipment.
Change your locks when moving into a new home. Doors should be protected by strong deadbolt locks. Windows can be protected by locks, burglar-resistant glass or using many small panes instead of one large one. Use metal bars to secure sliding doors. Keep valuables, personal papers, family heirlooms and even firearms protected in a fireproof safe. Don’t leave keys in obvious places such as mailboxes for thieves to find.
Protecting Your Vehicle
The biggest mistakes car owners make are making their cars easy targets by leaving the windows down and leaving the engine running, especially in hot months. Always lock your car doors. Keep your keys with you, and make sure windows are rolled up all the way. Don’t leave the engine running when you’re not in your car. Keep valuables and items such as GPS systems out of sight in the glove compartment or trunk.
Keep your garage locked when parking in your garage. When parking outside, park in well-lit areas with high traffic. Install an anti-theft system. Etch your VIN into your doors and windows, and consider investing in a GPS-tracking stolen vehicle recovery system.
Protecting your digital identity, home and vehicle form the basis of a comprehensive security system. Following these basic steps will help keep you, your valuables and your loved ones safe.