I’ve enjoyed writing my latest blog series on protecting ourselves and those we love both online and off. I’m wrapping up the series with this article on protecting your private information as cases of theft, compromise, and stolen identities continue to be a major problem in our society.

There are many cases where you need to supply businesses with your personal information for them to provide you with their services. What can you do to ensure that they are protecting your personal information? Here are some tips.

Your Investment Advisor

If you have an investment or retirement account, the company overseeing your account has much of your personal information. This is true whether the retirement account is an individual account or through your employer. Ask your investment advisor what precautions they take to protect your confidential information. At a minimum, they should have the following:

  • Firewall to help prevent hackers from getting into their system.
  • A requirement that passwords be changed often and should be complex and not easily guessed.
  • Two-factor authentication. This means their employees or customers who are logging in must have a password plus another form of validation, such as a text sent to their phone, before they can log in.
  • Virtual Private Network (VPN) to add an additional layer that hackers will need to break before they can get into the advisor’s system.
  • Encrypted files. If a hacker is able to get into the advisor’s system, the hacker would not be able to look at any of the information in the files without the proper passwords if the files are encrypted.
  • Up-to-date anti-virus software and anti-malware software.

Your Tax Preparer

If you hire someone to prepare your tax returns, they have large amounts of your personal and confidential data as well as information on anyone listed in your tax return. Your tax preparer should have the same safeguards listed above for the investment advisor. In addition, tax preparers are required by the IRS to have a cyber-security plan in place. The purpose of the plan is to ensure the security and confidentiality of the information held, to protect against expected hazards or threats, and to protect against unauthorized access to the information. The plan also lists the steps the organization will take if there is unauthorized access to the information.

Your Medical Providers

Your medical providers also collect and store your personal information. While they may ask you for it, you are not required to provide them with your social security number. Your insurance information and your birth date are all they need to file insurance claims on your behalf. Medical organizations are also required to comply with government regulations designed to protect your information and must abide by HIPAA guidelines to keep your information safe.

Though we all want to believe that professional organizations we work with are doing everything necessary to keep our private information confidential, this is not always the case. We should all make it a habit of asking any business that collects and stores our personal information what precautions they have in place to protect our information.

Judith Ackland has more than 26 years of experience in accountancy and financial planning, including seventeen years as a CFO of a diverse business. She started Crystal Financial in 2010 to help a wide array of individuals, families, and business owners better understand their finances and how good financial management could help them achieve their goals. Judith has an MA in Professional Accountancy from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln as well as a Certified Public Accountant Certificate and a Certified Financial Planner designation.

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