Everyday computers are lost, stolen, hacked or shared without permission. As a result, your personal and confidential information can become available to anyone and may lead to privacy invasion, identity theft, financial loss and a huge amount of stress as well as a waste of a lot of time spent cleaning up the mess.
Personal computers are a treasure chest of information. Much of the data stored on an individual’s computer is extremely personal and if it makes its way into the wrong hands could be abused and cost the owner financially as well as emotionally.
In addition to income tax information and financial numbers, many PCs have sensitive files that may include medical histories, personal diaries, and images of loved ones. If your PC gets lost, stolen, or misused, you will find yourself in a very uncomfortable position. Just the idea of strangers or unauthorized users getting into your personal stuff is disconcerting. The violation of privacy is not trivial, because if your secrets are exposed it could be a life-altering experience.
Clearly, it is wise to be proactive and have something in place to prevent the loss of personal data off your PC, no matter the scenario. Please consider the following tips to protect your financials, your privacy and, perhaps, your reputation:
- Invest in software that encrypts your files. Because two million laptops are stolen annually, there’s no guarantee that all the information on these missing computers won’t fall into the wrong hands. If all the files on these computers were encrypted, then chances are the information could not be accessed and used. Choose a product that you can trust, like McAfee Anti-Theft.
- Be aware of “shoulder surfers.” Many people have a bad habit of looking over the shoulder of someone, often a friend or colleague, to see what is being done on a PC. It only takes split seconds for someone to see and learn more than they should. If you are using a PC or laptop in a public place, treat it just like you would if it were an ATM. Don’t let anyone peek at what you’re doing or try to steal your personal data.
- Invest in trusted, multi-faceted security software. Look for comprehensive, multi-faceted PC security software that protects you from viruses, spyware, adware, hackers, unwanted emails, phishing scams, and identity theft. Choose a brand that you can trust, like McAfee.
- Use a PC you know is secure. Hackers can easily retrieve sensitive data that is sent over an unsecured Internet connection. If you need to send sensitive information or make an online transaction, use a PC that you know is secure and remember that there are many flavors of security. Some computers only have the bare minimum while others, like those with McAfee Total Protection, have comprehensive security.
- Watch out for phishing scams. Phishing scams use fraudulent emails and web sites, masquerading as legitimate businesses, to lure unsuspecting consumers into revealing private account or login information. Even if you have PC security, you still might visit a malicious web site without knowing it. Legitimate businesses will never ask you to update your personal information via email. Always verify web addresses before submitting your personal information.
- Monitor your credit reports. At least once a year, check your credit history. This is one of the best ways to find out if someone is using your personal finance information without your knowledge. If you see activity and history that you aren’t aware of or don’t remember, you will need to take action immediately to halt the possible theft of your identity.