Look around your home office and see how many things there are in plain sight that might put you at risk if you had a burglar break-in. According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, there has been a 20 percent increase in the theft of electronic devices such as smartphones, tablets and laptops during a home burglary. Those devices likely have information on them that could result in identity fraud and financial loss.
It’s time to do some serious spring cleaning and reduce your risk of stolen personal information.
Declutter Your Desk
While this is the obvious first step, do this with an eye toward protecting your own personal information. Do you have bank statements on your desk? Or worse, yellow sticky notes stuck to your computer with your account passwords? All of this could get you in trouble should it be stolen and used in a case of identify theft. Don’t tempt potential robbers with a cluttered desk full of goodies they’d want to snatch.
File and Hide Important Documents
Take all the papers you need to get off your desk and file them away, but don’t rely on a locking desk drawer. Your six year old learned how to get into that drawer with a letter opener just from watching movies. Buy a locking file cabinet to hold those files and store it in the back of a closet. Get into the habit of filing paperwork as soon as you receive it, says Homesessive, and you won’t have to go through a massive purging and filing exercise each year.
Companies such as LifeLock work with consumers frequently who have had paperwork stolen from which thieves were able to charge up credit cards or drain bank accounts. For $10 per month, LifeLock will help monitor your accounts and prevent identity theft from taking place. In the mean time, the more of this information you can keep out of sight, the more you’ve reduced your security risks.
Digitize As Much As Possible
Get as much of your paperwork in electronic form as soon as you can. Digital records are not only easier to store, but it’s also easier to find information when it’s in digital form. Scan documents into your computer and shred originals. Use apps like Evernote to make notes and lists on your smartphone. You can even scan documents and photos directly into Evernote, giving you no excuse not to do this step.
An Easy Way To Manage Receipts
Get rid of those little receipt slips stuffed in shoeboxes with the appropriately named company Shoeboxed. You scan your receipt or mail it in to Shoeboxed. They enter the information into their system and create reports with images of your receipts you can use for customer billing and tax purposes. You’ll never again have to go through a box of receipts at tax time.
Digital Spring Cleaning
Part of your spring cleaning effort should be checking that your online information is safe. Make sure all of your desktop computers, laptops, tablets and smartphones are password protected. Then, secure those devices when not in use. Use a cable lock on desktop and laptop computers. Store your mobile devices in a locked drawer.
Should one of your mobile devices get stolen, there are options to prevent sensitive information from being used. Remote data wiping programs give you the ability to clear out data from a lost or stolen tablet or smartphone, notes PC Mag. The iCloud app for your iPhone and iPad and the Google Apps Device Policy for your Android devices let you wipe any personal data from the device before it can be used against you. For these to work, they need to be set up and configured before the device is taken. Prepare your devices for the possibility.
Jill is freelance writer who specializes in consumer fraud and identity theft protection. She is married and has two children.