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Sharing Important Documents – Your Personal Security is at Stake

Identity theft is in the news on a daily basis. In fact, this year alone, millions of Americans will deal with identity theft on some level. Protecting your personal information, including date of birth, social security numbers and otherwise are more important than ever, as each provide a piece of a puzzle that when complete, give criminals the opportunity to tap into your  available credit, savings and all available resources.

So what do you do when you need to provide this information to a trusted advisor? Throughout the course of business, divorce proceedings or other situations, there are many times when people need to share important personal information. These can include tax returns, driver’s license numbers and many other sensitive documents. Knowing what we know today, what is the best approach to securing personal information?

Although it’s tempting to email requested documents to save time, you may want to reconsider.   Email is the least secure method of sharing information digitally. Although it is possible to encrypt a message, the recipient needs to know the password in order to decrypt the message. In addition, once decrypted, the message can be shared freely and downloaded at will without your knowledge of who is sharing or receiving the information.

There are many other methods of getting information to your trusted advisor, including USB drives, personal file sharing services, fax and U.S. Mail. The reality is that all are good, but none are without risk.   When it comes down to it, each of us have to consider our comfort level with this risk and make the best decision personally.

Here are a few tips to consider the next time you’re in the position of having to share your personal information:

  1. Whenever possible, deliver documents to the office of your attorney or trusted advisor personally. When that is not possible, then choose a method that will encrypt your information which provides an added layer of security. If it takes even a few more minutes for a criminal to access information, you may get passed over for the next opportunity that may be quicker.
  2. Provide the least amount of information as is necessary. Don’t just provide information because it’s asked for within routine paperwork. When possible, provide the last four digits of your social security number only. If the entire number is needed, you will be asked for that in a follow up conversation.
  3. Get organized. It’s important to know where important paperwork is at all times. If your social security card is misplaced, would you know? Passports, birth certificates and other life documents should be stored in a safe and secure place.
  4. Don’t carry personal information with you. A driver’s license is the only document that you need to have on you while driving a vehicle. If you have a license, then passports, birth certificates and other documents can remain together in a more secure location than your vehicle or purse.

 If you feel uncomfortable with the level of personal information that you’re being asked to provide in any situation, consult your legal advisor who can help.