Identity theft continues to be a growing problem in the U.S., and Veterans are not immune to falling victim. Fortunately, when it comes to preventing identity theft, knowledge is power. The more you understand about protecting your personal information, the better chance you have of keeping your identity secure.
VA’s More Than a Number program seeks to educate Veterans and their families about identity theft prevention, providing information on ways to protect personal data and on steps to take if you think that data has become compromised. Read below for some of the tips that can be found on the More than a Number website:
Secure your home wireless network. Like public or shared computers, unprotected wireless networks can place sensitive information in jeopardy. Consult your router’s manual for instructions on how to protect your wireless router’s security by renaming your router to something only you would know, disabling Service Set Identifier (SSI) broadcasting so that others can’t easily locate your router, changing your router’s pre-set password and upgrading your router’s firmware.
Protect against viruses. Regularly update anti-virus protection software on your computer. In addition, keep your computer system and browser up to date and set at the highest security level.
Keep your emails safe. Avoid sending any sensitive information via email. If you absolutely have to use email to send personal data, consider purchasing encryption software. Encrypting emails is the only way to ensure that the information you are sending is received securely.
Use social media responsibly. The more information would-be identity thieves can piece together, the easier it is for them to steal your identity. Customize your social media accounts’ privacy settings to limit access to the people you are trying to communicate with, and to prevent your information from being shared on search engines. Be selective about what your share online, and be extra-cautious when accepting “friend” or “connection” requests—scammers often send them out to get past privacy settings.
Use a variety of passwords. If you use the same password for all of your online activities, and an identity thief uncovers it, he or she could have access to your bank, email, and other personal accounts. Avoid using your name or the names of family members in your password; social media has made those passwords even easier to crack.
Lock up your records. Keep any financial documents and records containing your sensitive information in a secure place in your home or office. Avoid carrying around items that contain your personal information, and shred documents that you no longer need.
Double-check mailings and faxes. Always make sure that documents aren’t stuck together and that the recipient’s information is correct before sending any personally identifiable information. When faxing sensitive data, contact the recipient before and after the transmissions to verify that it was received by the correct person
In addition to tips for protection your personal information, More Than a Number offers common identity theft warning signs, links to the Internet’s best identity theft resources, and updates on what VA is doing internally to protect Veteran information. To take advantage of More Than a Number, visit the website or call VA’s toll-free identity theft help line at 855-578-5492.
Kai Fawn Miller is a strategic communications director in VA’s Office of Information and Technology.