9 unexpected tips for protecting your personal data


You may know the basics, but take identity theft protection up a notch with these uncommon tips.

Staying connected helps keep you happy, entertained, and informed. It helps you read the news from other countries, reconnect with friends, and watch your favorite shows. But that connection can also put you at risk for threats and security breaches from online criminals. 

Chances are, you have already taken some precautions: you don’t share passwords or personal info, you have antivirus software, you lock your devices, and you may even know about phishing scams.

But as hackers and malware become more sophisticated, everyone needs to stay vigilant. Help protect against identity theft with these 9 surprising tips.

1. Turn off your computer when not in use

When you leave your computer on and connected to the internet, you leave yourself vulnerable to security breaches. CSID, a division of the credit reporting agency Experian, suggests powering off your device when you’re not using it.Disclosure 1

2. Use a passphrase, not a password

Security experts recommend that rather than using a one-word passcode with a few numbers tossed in, you should string together about five long, unrelated words.Disclosure 2The more characters, the stronger your passphrase, and the harder it will be for hackers to access your information. You can also use a password manager to safely store all of your passwords.

3. Pay with your smartphone

Using Apple Pay or the Android equivalent can actually be safer than your credit card, according to PCMag.Disclosure 3 Why? Because the app will create a one-time authentication code that is good for only one specific transaction, so no one can steal that code and use it for other purchases, potentially harming your credit.

4. Keep your software up to date

Mark Surman, executive director of the Mozilla Foundation,compares software updates to oil changes. “They can be a hassle in the moment,but a lifesaver in hindsight.”Disclosure 2 Updating your software can be a nuisance, but often these updates include much-needed security spot fixes. Turn on auto-updates to make this task a no-brainer and help you keep your peace of mind.

5. Encrypt your data

Encryption isn’t just for technology whizzes—it’s for anyone who wants to keep their data and identity safe. Encryption works by turning the information that websites and apps gather from you into code, which keeps unauthorized parties from accessing your data.To browse and shop safely, make sure the sites you visit and submit information to have “https” at the start of their URL instead of just “http”— the “s” at the end stands for “secure.” You can also use tools like the HTTPS Everywhere browser extension, which encrypts your data whenever you visit a site that supports HTTPS.

6. Have multiple email accounts

Using more than one email account can be a great way to practice identity theft protection. Forbes recommends using one email for sensitive information like banking, one for email subscriptions, and one for personal communication.Disclosure 4 With so many free-to-use email services available, it’s easy to create multiple accounts.

7. Sign when using your debit card

Whenever possible, choose to process your debit card as a credit card transaction. There won’t be much difference in the transaction process—money will still come directly out of your checking account—but it adds an extra layer of protection.Disclosure 5 It may take longer to sign than to enter your PIN, but it can also make it harder for thieves to steal that number.Disclosure 6

8. Wipe old computers and phones

Before you recycle or donate that old device, be sure to wipe it of your personal information and set it back to factory settings. Otherwise, you’re basically handing your data to whoever ends up with your device next. The Federal Trade Commission offers advice on how to do this for your computer and your phone.

9. Monitor your financial accounts and credit activity

At Truist, we want you to protect what matters most. When it comes to online privacy, safeguard your personal information and that of your loved ones, too. Monitor and report any suspicious activity regarding your financial accounts and credit reports. Be proactive, and stay safe. There are so many more ways to take your data security into your own hands. You don’t have to do them all. Even if you only do one, you may benefit from an extra level of identity protection and more peace of mind.

This content does not constitute legal, tax, accounting, financial, or investment advice. You are encouraged to consult with competent legal, tax, accounting, financial, or investment professionals based on your specific circumstances. We do not make any warranties as to accuracy or completeness of this information, do not endorse any third-party companies, products, or services described here, and take no liability for your use of this information.