Don’t Be the Next Identity Theft Statistic: Protect Your PII

Don’t be the next statistic of identity theft. Protecting your personally identifiable information (PII) is an important step to take in safeguarding your identity and financial well-being. PII is any data or information that can be used to identify an individual, such as their name, address, social security number, and other data points. Read on to learn more about the importance of protecting your PII and the steps you can take to do so.


PII – What is it and why is it important?

PII, or personally identifiable information, is any data or information that can be used to identify an individual.

This includes a person’s name, address, social security number, financial information, and other details that can be used to establish identity. PII is often used for things like applying for jobs or loans. It’s also used in everyday life when introducing yourself, checking in to a location on social media, or simply logging in to applications that you use regularly.  Places of employment, anniversaries and birthdays are also PII.


PII is incredibly important as it is used to prove your identity. With access to someone’s PII, an individual can easily impersonate another person and potentially gain access to financial accounts, medical records, and even commit fraud. That’s why it’s essential to ensure your PII is secure and protected.


How Is PII Collected?

First and foremost, it is important to understand how your data is being collected and used. The tradeoff between privacy and convenience can be a tricky one, and it’s important to think about the consequences of sharing your data with businesses or services. Weigh the pros and cons before giving away any personal information and make informed decisions about what data you do and do not share. That way, you can ensure that you can maintain your privacy and use services in the most secure way possible.

      1. Read the terms of service for each website, app, or service you use and find out exactly how your data will be stored, shared, and processed. This will help you make informed decisions about where and how you are sharing your data
      2. Take proactive steps to secure your personal data. You can do this by setting strong passwords on all of your accounts, enabling two-factor authentication, and regularly monitoring your credit score
      3. Be aware of all of the ways your data can be tracked online. Using ad blockers can help prevent ads from collecting data on you and using private browsing mode on your browser to prevent cookies from tracking you.

    Taking these precautions will help you protect your privacy and keep your personal information safe!


    How is PII stolen?

    Unfortunately, cybercriminals are always on the lookout for opportunities to exploit our personal information. Frequently that information is stolen through incidents like data breaches, phishing attacks, malware, and social engineering.

    Data Breaches: A data breach occurs when someone unauthorized gains access to a system containing PII. Often, this data is then used to commit identity theft or fraud.

    Phishing Attacks: Phishing attacks involve sending emails or texts that look legitimate but contain malicious links or attachments. The links or attachments will then download malicious software onto the victim’s computer or device, allowing the attacker to steal PII.

    Malware: Malware is software specifically designed to gain access to and steal personal information from an individual’s device. Malware can come in many forms, including spyware, ransomware, and keyloggers.

    Social Engineering: Social engineering is the use of manipulation tactics to trick someone into giving away their personal information or PII. This can happen over the phone, through email, or even through face-to-face interactions.

    It is important to remember that there are many different ways that PII can be stolen and it is important to be vigilant and aware of your own digital security.


    Tips to protect your PII

    It’s important to take an active role in how your data is collected and used. By understanding and managing your data, you can protect your PII and help prevent it from getting into the wrong hands.

        1. Familiarize yourself with the privacy policies of the websites you visit, as well as the data collected from your devices
        2. Adjust the settings of your devices and accounts to limit the data collected and restrict its use
        3. Use strong passwords with a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols. Don’t use the same password for multiple accounts and be sure to change them regularly
        4. Use multi-factor authentication: Many sites now offer multi-factor authentication, which requires you to enter a code sent to your phone or email when logging into your account. This added layer of security helps protect your PII from being stolen
        5. Don’t give out personal information online: Be careful about sharing personal information on social media and other websites. You don’t want to make it easy for criminals to access your data
        6. Be cautious of email phishing scams: Don’t open suspicious emails or click on unfamiliar links. Delete them immediately if you receive one
        7. Monitor your credit reports: Check your credit reports at least once a year to make sure all the information is correct. You can also sign up for a credit monitoring service to help you keep track of changes in your report
        8. Be mindful of public Wi-Fi: Only use public Wi-Fi networks that are secure and avoid entering confidential information over them.


      How to know if your PII has been compromised

      A data compromise is sometimes hard to spot. One minute everything is fine and the next it’s not. One way to tell if your PII has been compromised is to watch for any suspicious activity, Here are some signs that indicate your PII may have been compromised:

          1. You see unauthorized or unfamiliar activity on any of your accounts – social media, banking, email, etc
          2. Friends or family report suspicious activity on your accounts
          3. Unauthorized charges or withdrawals on any of your financial account
          4. You were information was compromised in a data breach
          5. Unexpected bills for services you didn’t sign up fo
          6. Emails or calls from scammers trying to steal your informatio
          7. Receiving emails claiming to be from a bank or other financial institution asking you to update your account information

        Stay vigilant and monitor your accounts for any suspicious logins regularly. You may be able to see this from your online account or through an app provided by your online provider. Look for logins from unknown devices or locations, or changes to account settings or preferences that you didn’t make. All of these can be signs that your account has been hacked.


        What to do if your account was compromised?

        If you notice any of these signs, it’s important to take action right away. Diligence is key to keeping your data secure. Here are some steps to take if you believe one or more of your accounts has been compromised.

            1. Notify contacts and warn them about potential malware. Let them know not to click on any links or provide any PII from requests that recently came from you
            2. Ensure security software is up to date and run a scan of your device as quickly as possible
            3. Change passwords on compromised accounts and change the password for any account that uses the same password
            4. Change passwords for other key accounts connected to the compromised account like banking, email, or social media
            5. Use strong passwords that are not recognizable as words. Your passwords should be at least 10 characters and include upper and lower-case letters, numbers and symbols
            6. Utilize a password manager to help you keep track of all of your unique logins. Using a different password for each login helps minimize the effect of a data breach. Password managers help you keep all of your logins organized