News & Resources

The importance of protecting personal data

Apr 28, 2011 Brian Bradley

One of the most important aspects of protecting one's identity is to make sure that documents never end up in the wrong hands. Having personal information about someone can be extremely valuable to people who know how to use it to sign up for credit cards, take out loans and gain in other ways financially. Often, stealing someone's identity can be as easy as going through his or her trash and getting a document with their address, name, and social security number. In an effort to combat this growing consumer issue, Better Business Bureau offices all over the United States hosted a free paper shredding event, where people were asked to bring old documents they no longer needed and securely dispose of them. In addition to the shredding activities, those in attendance were also able to learn how best to prevent the ID theft from taking place at all. The Better Business Bureau gave the following to tips to people trying to keep their data in safe hands: Dispose of credit cards that have expired by cutting them up; don't carry around a Social Security card unless it's needed at the time; Select a Personal Identification Number for bank accounts and other places that won't be easily determined by your date of birth, your address, phone number or the last four digits of a social security number; only carry around credit cards or check books if you need them during the day; close inactive bank accounts; keep sensitive information in a secret, locked place; never give out personal information over the phone, internet or by mail unless the company has a good reputation; and always shred bank statements and other information. The BBB has made other headlines when trying to help consumers. In a recent statement, the president and CEO of the BBB, Steven A. Cox, said that people should be on the lookout for debt collectors using illegal tactics when trying to collect funds. "Consumers need to know the red flags for fraudulent debt collectors," said Cox. "If the collector refuses to reveal the name of their agency or demands that the payments be made in cash or money transfer only, consumers need to report this immediately."