In our office we have a copier that can make your copy into a PDF document that you can receive via email at your desk. It’s a really great feature but recently I saw how that feature could turn potentially ugly with the push of a few wrong buttons.
A person accidentally sent a PDF copy of his license and social security card to a few people in the office because he mistakenly highlighted more names than his own. This could have been an identity theft situation that would have cost this person a lot of time and money to reclaim the stolen identity.
But the problem doesn’t stop there. If this person was using a digital copier, there is another risk that has nothing to do with human error. Did you know that digital copiers store what you’ve copied on a hard drive that if not wiped clean, can be retrieved when that copier is re-sold or junked after it is no longer useful to the company?
It is scary to think about how much personal and company data could be on your organization’s copier hard drive. Fortunately, there are some ways you can try to protect that information by working with your IT staff. An article by Consumeraffairs.com has some easy to follow steps you can take in your office.
As scary as this is, the number one way people become victims of identity theft is still through their own lapses in judgment. Don’t be careless with your personal information. Learn how to be identity smart with the brochure,Identity Smart: A Guide for Consumers to Help Protect Against Identity Theft, by LifeLock and the National Crime Prevention Council.
Ten simple tips to secure your identity:
• Do not give out personal information over the phone, through the mail, or over the Internet unless you have initiated the contact or know with whom you’re dealing.
• Shred all documents, including preapproved credit applications, insurance forms, bank checks and statements you are discarding, and other financial information.
• Protect your computer from Internet intruders—use firewalls. Also use anti-virus software and keep it up-to-date. Create hard-to-guess passwords that cannot be found in any dictionary. Select passwords with at least eight characters and that include a mix of numbers and both uppercase and lowercase letters.
• Minimize the identification information and the number of cards you carry. Take only what you’ll actually need. Make a list of all your credit card account numbers and bank account numbers with customer service phone numbers, and keep it in a safe place.
• Do not put your Social Security number on your checks or your credit receipts. If a business requests your Social Security number, give an alternate number.
• Be careful when using ATM machines and long-distance phone cards. Someone may look over your shoulder and get your PIN numbers. You also have to be careful of ATM skimmer machines. Do not use an ATM if it looks like it’s been tampered with.
• Never submit your credit card number to a website unless it is encrypted on a secured site. Look at the bottom of the screen for a padlock symbol. Do not select to save your information on the site for future transactions.
• Pay attention to your billing cycles. Follow up with creditors if bills don’t arrive on time. A missing credit card bill could mean an identity thief has taken over your credit account and changed your address.
• Cancel all credit cards you have not used in the last six months. Open credit is a prime target for an identity thief. Also, you might consider signing up for a monitoring service so you can be alerted to any unusual activity.
• Order your credit report at least twice a year from the three major credit bureaus: Equifax (www.equifax.com), Experian (www.experian.com), and Trans Union (www.transunion.com). The Fair Credit Reporting Act allows you to get one free credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus once per year. Visit www.annualcreditreport.com. Correct all mistakes on your credit report in writing. Send a letter to the credit reporting agency identifying the problems item by item, include a copy of the credit report, and send the letter return receipt requested.