PII stands for Personally Identifiable Information and covers any information that could be used maliciously to identify or locate you. This can include things like your name, address, birthday, Social Security number, phone number or any other information that could be used to identify you.
PII should be kept safe because this information can be used for malicious intentions such as identity theft or fraud. Thieves will seek out as much information about their target as possible. For this reason you should be leary about providing any personal information, especially if it is unclear why it is needed. Here are some tips and tricks about how to protect your PII
Lock down your social media accounts
Do you share pictures and other information on social media? Do you have accounts on any social media platform? If so then you should make sure all of your information is private and you only are friends with people you know and trust. Think about what is potentially available on social media profiles: birthday, relationship status, employment information, location, schooling, and much more. To protect your accounts make sure you have two-factor enabled to make it more difficult for anyone to gain access to your account; make sure you use a unique and complex password; check your privacy settings to make sure your information is not public; resist the urge to share sensitive information online.
Use caution on public Wi-Fi
When traveling or out an about be careful how you use public Wi-Fi. Criminals can setup “free” Wi-Fi with the intentions of gathering PII. To protect yourself, do not check any bank accounts or log into any other accounts that could be at risk while on a public connection. Research a VPN (virtual private network) solution that protects your privacy and will encrypt your traffic on public connections. Don’t set your device up to remember connections and/or make sure to forget any connections when you are done.
Protect Security Questions
You’ve seen those surveys that traverse the web; what is the name of your first pet, where did you graduate, who was your favorite teacher, share a memory about me. Do any of these things sound familiar? Possibly a security question? No matter how fun they seem do not participate in these surveys. That information can then be used to answer some of your security questions. A tip is to create bogus answers these questions and store them in a password manager. For example: The security question for your banking account can be something like What is the name of your first pet? I don’t want to use my actual answer because people know that. Instead I’m going to let my password manager generate a response and I will store that in the manager and use that going forward.
Be aware of how your information is being used
Read Terms and Conditions when signing up for new services. When being asked for personal information make sure to only provide information you are comfortable with the requestor having. Do not be afraid to ask why they need to know that. Some places ask for Social Security Numbers when they may not need them. Don’t write information such as credit card and banking account numbers on paper forms.