Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Tips for preventing identity theft - Digital Hygiene: Conclusion

By Don Gardner

This is the sixth and final installment of a series of articles by Don Gardner, Clearwater County Emergency Management Coordinator, about protecting your digital identity. 

Digital hygiene when traveling, especially abroad

Did you know that a U.S. judge ruled that Customs and Border Protection has a right, without a warrant, to search your laptop when you enter the United States, even if you are an American citizen?

Do you access your bank accounts, email accounts or mortgage accounts online? Do you pay your rent, medical bills, parking tickets, credit cards, etc., from your computer or mobile device? Consider that you are essentially carrying your identity with you in an easy-to-steal package that might as well be wrapped with a ribbon.

Here are some tips.

Take “burn” laptops, tablets, and smartphones that are “clean” (free of substantial amounts of information) and are disposable when the trip is concluded.

Remove your battery from your devices even if they’re “off” during important conversations.

Wait an hour after landing at the airport before turning on your smart phone, and turn off your phone an hour before your return.

Lock every device with a password.

Update your stored owner information to just a phone number.

Turning off Bluetooth is an absolute Must, and adjust your near field communications (NFC) settings.

Enable data storage encryption.

Don’t open attachments from, or link to unknown source.

Do not download any software during your trip.

Watch for “shoulder surfers” - they’re watching for your password and reading your monitor.

Use your cellular G3 or G4 network, not the free WiFi in airports, hotels, and coffee shops, if possible.

Assume that a misplaced device is lost or stolen and report this immediately.

Just watch out for your digital self when you travel. 

How to report identity theft

If you suspect, or become a victim of, identity theft, follow these steps:

Report it to your financial institution. Call the phone number on your account statement or on the back of your credit or debit card.

Report the fraud to your local police immediately. Keep a copy of the police report, which will make it easier to prove your case to creditors and retailers.

Contact the credit-reporting bureaus and ask them to flag your account with a fraud alert, which asks merchants not to grant new credit without your approval.

Credit-reporting bureaus: Equifax: 1-800-685-1111 - Experian: 1-888-397-3742 - TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289.

To request your credit report, go to or call 1-877-322-8228.

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