December 26th, 2012

Securing Your Digital Life: Personal Identifying Information

What is Personal Identifying Information?

Personal Identifying Information (PII) is any information you use in your daily life that identifies you. The most common source of identification is the last four digits of your Social Security number. When the Social Security Administration decided to issue numbers, they never intended it to be used as a universal form of identification. Fast forward a few decades and now everyone is using this form of identification. The problem is that having only the last four digits is enough for criminals to figure out your whole SSN. In 2009, Wired Magazine posted an article on how to extract a full social security number from publicly available data.

Other forms of PII include your name, birth date, birth city, address, phone number, account numbers, member number, mother’s maiden name, and more. This list grows each time challenge questions are used with information such as your favorite color or first pet’s name. With the rise of social media, PII is becoming increasingly easy to find, which increases the risk of Tyleridentity theft. Because of this, we have removed challenge questions from Online Banking in favor of a more secure authentication process.

SMCU has you covered when it comes to Online Banking, but there are still preventative measures you should take to protect your PII. Here’s tech expert Tyler to tell you more about it.

How to protect your PII

  • Remember that your SSN is not the only piece of information that you should protect anymore. Your birth date and birth city should be closely guarded. This means that if you have these on Facebook or other social networking sites, consider removing them or increasing your privacy settings to display them only to your closest friends.
  • Consider using free online tools such as Credit Karma and Google Alerts to track your credit report and online information. If you haven’t “Googled” yourself in awhile, now is a good time.
  • When asked to use your SSN, ask the vendor if they have another method for identification. For example, utilities companies often use your SSN for a credit check when you’re getting new service, but having a separate “password” will make sure that the “last four” is always protected.
  • Don’t give personal information over the phone, internet, or by mail unless you are sure of the requestor’s identity. Remember that your financial institution will not call you to ask you for this information.
  • Make sure you have strong passwords or encrypt your passwords by using a password manager (learn more here).

Now that you know all about PII and steps you can take to prevent identity theft, your digital life is much more secure.


Learn more about digital security in these posts:
Securing your digital life: Patching
Securing your digital life: Password Security
E-Scam Warning: Malware Targeting Mobile Devices

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