Is Your Personal and Private Information Safe Online?

mailboxes-personal-private-information-online-safetyMy friend and I were out walking our dogs the other day and a neighbor called us over to borrow a cell phone. The mailbox for the street had been broken into — the door wide open revealing all the empty personal mail boxes.

I imagined all the stolen mail and the chaos it would cause — credit card statements, phone bills, Christmas gifts and checks… I felt terrible for my affected neighbors. I have had my van broken into and my purse stolen before. Credit cards, money, Social Insurance Numbers, Health Care Numbers, etc. It was terrible!

As I walked home, I thought about our lives online — and the panic people have about shopping, banking, and sharing personal information online.

I live my life online. Like most of you, I bank, shop, work, run businesses, blog, tweet, Facebook, etc., and I do it all “risking” my private personal information and online safety.

But really — how “risky” is this lifestyle???

Sure, there are experts who will have you ready to unplug and move to the woods, but do we have to live in fear?

I have lived and worked online for a decade and I have never had anything “stolen” — other than photos of my kids, my writing, etc., from my blog.

In fact, the most thefts I have experienced were “offline” — stolen wallets, stolen mail, stolen iPhone, stolen camera packed with photos and videos of my kids. They weren’t from people hacking into my online accounts or busting my passwords.

Yes, I take reasonable precautions. I use strong passwords and change them often, (but not nearly as often as some people do.) I am careful when using public wi-fi and do not log into bank accounts, etc.

But, do I stay up at night worrying that my personal information is at risk? Well, do you worry about your mail arriving? Because whether it is the mailbox on the corner of your street or your online bank account, bad things can happen.

Keep a close eye on your accounts, watching for unusual behavior, just as you have to for offline risks.

Assume that anything you post on social media sites, regardless of how “private” your settings, may be seen by the “public.” So as Kelby Carr puts it, “Don’t put anything online you wouldn’t put on a billboard.”

And then relax.

Protection is an illusion. We never were safe from thieves and we never will be safe. Lock your doors yes. But don’t stay up all night watching the door.

What about you? How vigilant are you about your online safety? Does it cause you stress? Do you think I am too relaxed in my approach?

Read more of Janice’s posts at 5 Minutes for Mom.

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