Ask Andy: Keeping information safe

By Andy Wise - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - You keep an eye on your credit cards and only shop from reputable websites, so your personal information is safe, right?

It is estimated that more than 250 million records containing sensitive information have been breached in the past five years.  Thieves are tapping into store and credit processing computers, or laptops full of sensitive information are lost or stolen by employees.

So what can you do to protect yourself?

First, understand what information could be really dangerous in the hands of thieves.  Your social security number is the most important, so always ask "why?" when someone asks for it.

A determined thief can hurt you with just your name and birth date, so think twice about posting your birth date on Facebook for others to see.

This is also where credit cards have an advantage over many debit cards.  If somebody steals your credit card information, it is likely your company will either cover most or all of your losses.

Some banks do have zero-liability debit cards, but that protection may not kick in for several weeks.  Meanwhile, your account could be drained dry while the bank investigates.

While your account sits on zero, you could rack up quite a few overdraft fees.

Fortunately, most of the people whose data is involved in these breaches are not victimized.  

Take advantage of free credit reports and open every piece of mail from your lender so that you are on top of things.

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