Keeping your data safe

Advice from the Information Commissioner

Your personal information is valuable, so you should treat it just as you would any valuable item. With crimes like identity theft increasing, it is even more important for you to safeguard your information. Criminals can find out and use your personal details to open bank accounts, apply for credit cards and loans and get state benefits in your name. Don’t panic – there are some simple steps you can take to safeguard your information:

1. Store in a safe place any documents carrying your personal details, such as your passport, driving  licence, bank statements and utility bills.

2. Shred or destroy personal documents you are throwing away such as bills, receipts, bank or credit-card statements and other documents that show your name, address or other personal details.

3. If you have to post personal documents, ask the post office for advice on the most secure method.

4. Limit the number of documents you carry around that contain your personal details. If possible, don’t leave personal documents in your vehicle.

5. Check your bank and credit-card statements regularly for unfamiliar transactions.

6. Use different passwords and PINs for different accounts and take extra care when using public computers to access your personal information.

7. Regularly get a copy of your personal credit file to check for any suspicious credit applications. For more information on how to do this, see the Information Commissioner’s Web Site or ring 08453 091 091 for a free copy of ‘Credit explained’.

8. Always think about who you are giving your information to. Be cautious about providing any personal details to unsolicited callers by phone, fax, post, email or in person, unless you are sure the person is who they say they are. If you are suspicious, ring the organisation back on an advertised number or visit their website.

9. Even if you know who is asking for your information, think twice before you answer their questions. If it’s not clear why they need the information, ask them or just move on to the next question.

10. Ensure your home computer is protected before you go online – buying a good anti-virus, firewall and anti-spam software package will protect your computer against viruses and any spyware software, which can be used to obtain your personal information.

11. Do not click on links to go to a website unless you can be confident it is genuine.

12. If you use a central or communal postal-delivery point, such as in a block of flats, make sure you have a lockable post box and collect your post as soon as possible. If your mail regularly fails to arrive, report this to Royal Mail.

13. If you move house, redirect all your mail and inform your bank, utility companies and other organisations of your new address.