If you think about it, your identity is a lot like your personal hygiene. You have tasks you do on different schedules, like showering every day and brushing your teeth several times a day versus trimming your nails once a week. You might wash your hair or shave a couple of times a week, but only get a haircut every other month. Some tasks can go even longer, such as a dental checkup every six months or a physical with your doctor once a year.
What does this have to do with protecting your identity? Everything.
Just like keeping your body clean and healthy, you have to do the same for your identity.
Daily Identity Protection Hygiene
There are some things you should do every single day to protect your identity, like keeping all of your important papers in one secure place, creating a "shred pile" for an outdated bank and medical statements, and mailing checks from a postal box instead of your curbside mailbox.
On the tech side of things, it's a great idea to backup your computer to an external hard drive or cloud storage account every day, which will help you recover your files in case you're hit by a virus, ransomware attack, or other malware.
(See also: What To Do If You're Infected With Malware)
Weekly Identity Protection Hygiene
It's a good idea to check for updates to critical software and mobile apps at least once a week. If your antivirus, browser, operating system, email provider, even your online banking or favorite retailer finds a vulnerability in their systems, they'll issue a patch or an update. Forgetting to install that new version can leave you exposed.
Monthly Identity Protection Hygiene
Remember that shred pile from before? Now's the time to get rid of it. A simple cross-cut shredder won't set you back too much if you want a home model, or you can pay a little more to use a shredding service. You can even burn the papers in a backyard fire pit—a great opportunity to gather the family, toast marshmallows, and talk about keeping your identity safe and avoiding scams.
General Identity Protection Hygiene
Hopefully, you already use strong, unique passwords on all of your accounts and don't share your passwords. If you ever suspect your account is breached or compromised, change your passwords associated with that account and email address immediately.
Like your hair, your information can turn on you in the wrong hands (we have all had at least one nightmare haircut right?). So keep it safe and inaccessible. These are only a few of the essential steps, of course, but they're all designed to keep your data and identity just as healthy as the rest of you.
About the Author: Eva Velasquez is the President/CEO of the Identity Theft Resource Center. She has a passion for consumer protection and educating the public about identity theft, privacy, scams and fraud, and other related issues and is recognized as a national expert on these topics.
Experian proudly provides financial support to the Identity Theft Resource Center.