Kelly Bullis: Protecting private data

If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times (or more!) about folks getting a phone call or email from the “IRS” demanding payment or else. (Or else you’ll be arrested, or else you’ll have your wages garnished, etc.) Trust me when I say, “They are NOT the IRS. Just hang up or delete the email.”

There are evil people out there who have no problem trying to trick you into giving them your private data so they can steal from you.

I myself have been a victim of two different credit cards in the past three months being hacked and bogus charges appearing, causing the need to cancel those cards and get new ones. Today, with all the automatic billing that we do, changing credit cards is a major hassle.

So, No. 1 on your list should be having an identity theft monitor program setup and running all the time. They inform you if they detect any unusual activity or if your private data is appearing in the “dark web” (the criminal world of data sharing). I recently received a notification from my monitor provider one of my passwords had just shown up in the dark web. So, I spent a half hour yesterday, changing every web access that uses that particular password, which leads me to another suggestion: Use multiple passwords, so your risk of being attacked if the bad guys find out one of your passwords is limited instead of everything.

Here are some other things you should be doing:

1. Have anti-virus software running on all your computers.

2. Give personal information only to trusted sources you have contacted, not if they contact you. (This is huge. A lot of these criminals send out emails and make phone calls that can fool just about everybody. So, do not give any information out unless you are the one contacting them). If somebody calls you, don’t call them back on the phone number they give; look up the official phone number and call that back, asking if they just called you.

3. If you receive an e-mail (even from a trusted source), unless you were asking for the attached item, do not click on it. Instead, call that person and verify they sent you something legit.

4. Be careful how much personal information you share on social media. (Keep your home address, phone number, employer, work schedule, vacation schedule, etc., private).

5. Shred all documents you wish to throw away if they have any personal information (just your name and address is enough “personal” information to give thieves a start).

6. Keep old tax returns and personal records under lock and key.

7. Do not send anything as an attachment to an e-mail unless you first put a password on it.

8. Do not put any private information in the body of an e-mail. (Criminals set up servers that “assist” in passing e-mail traffic, and while that e-mail is “passing through,” they have programs running to snag any personal information such as Social Security numbers, passwords, phone numbers, etc.).

Did you hear? Prov. 14:16 says, “One who is wise is cautious and turns away from evil, but a fool is reckless and careless.”

Kelly Bullis is a certified public accountant in Carson City. Contact him at 775-882-4459, on the Web at and on Facebook.


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