Situational Awareness: Tips to Protect Yourself and Your Data


September 26th is National Situational Awareness Day, so we thought we’d take some time to talk about different ways you can be more aware of how you present your personal information online and during day-to-day activities.

Carelessness Can Be Costly

In 2016, 15.4 million people became victims of monetary fraud or identity theft. The average amount lost per person was around a thousand dollars. Sometimes, the true cost of the theft may not become evident until several years after the fact. Personal data, like email addresses and account numbers, can be hoarded and later sold online. When the theft or fraud is finally noticed, it can cost untold hours of frustration and worry to get everything sorted out – and even then, there’s no guarantee that the stolen money will be compensated or returned.

The online world is home to our shopping, work, and social lives. We receive credit statements, ID cards, and bank reports through the mail, after which we can examine them in the comfort of our own homes. The price for such convenience, however, can easily be found in how often and how easily we put ourselves at risk. Adopting healthier data management habits can help reduce the risk of identity theft and can help grant better control over sensitive information.

Good Online Safety Habits

  • Keep passwords unique – and keep them safe. Surely no one would use 123456 as a password anymore, right? Think again. A study from the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) found that those numbers, in that order, appeared in over 23 million passwords. Create a unique and memorable password for every account, and don’t share them with friends.
  • Never use a debit card for online purchases. Debit cards draw directly from your private checking account, which means that if it’s compromised, it could be a lot harder to get the money back. Credit cards, conversely, tend to have better protections in place. Even then, you can also get a one-time virtual credit card number from your bank, limiting the use to a single vendor.
  • Keep your phone number private. It can be hard to imagine navigating everything from social scenes to online purchases without a phone number. However, handing out your number to someone you just met can be a big risk. Use an app to create a burner number and save your real one for people and sources you trust.
  • Don’t surf freely on public Wi-Fi. On an unprotected, unsecured network, it’s easy for someone to peek at what you’re doing, and that can include seeing account details or password information.
  • Think before you post. If you post a picture online, you might also be sharing your physical location. If you mention you shop somewhere often, or just can’t get enough of the lattes from this one coffee shop, that information stays available for anyone to find. Carefully consider what you’re posing before you hit the submit button.
  • Read the privacy policy (yes, really). Privacy policies explicitly state how the information you’re submitting will be used. Sometimes, companies will share their customer information with other businesses or automatically sign you up for mailers. Know what you’re getting into before you continue.

Safe Practices for Home

  • Destroy documents with private information on them. Yes, this means the birthday card envelope from your uncle with your home address on it. It also includes anything with your phone number, your social security number, any ID numbers, school records, and credit card details. Pieces from single-strand shredders are relatively easy to put back together, so you may want to invest in a one-time paper shredding service.
  • Keep your ID cards in one, secure place on your person when you go out. Driver’s licenses are one of the most desired targets for thieves and fraudsters, and the violation can be hard to recover from. Similarly, social security cards, credit cards, and other forms of ID should never be left unprotected. If you must carry them with you, keep them somewhere close and never leave them unattended.
  • Request a credit report at least once a year. If there’s an odd activity or missing/incorrect information, you may need to take more proactive steps to investigate. It’s an easy, free way to keep an eye on your accounts.
  • Don’t give out any private details over the phone. Phone scams are one of the most common. Your phone will ring, and on the other end, an urgent-sounding individual demanding money or information in order to pay a bill or restore service to a utility. Hang up and call the institution or business back at a verified number.

Be Proactive Through Mobile Document Shredding

Many of the above tips are behavioral in nature, requiring either a change in habit or action. One, however, requires both the decision to act and the mechanical equipment to follow through.

Residents and home businesses often find they benefit immensely from the peace of mind that follows a one-time paper shredding appointment. They can observe the destruction of their documents in real-time and can relax in the knowledge that the particles will be safely transported to a recycling facility for processing. The only preparation required is the gathering of all documents to be destroyed.

For more information on mobile document shredding and how it could benefit your business, call 1-800-987-4733 or send us a message online!

Don’t Just Shred. SAFESHRED!