Privacy Calendar

In the Privacy Calendar, the action items that are important to take to protect your identity are listed by priority rather than mind-set. The order was determined according to three criteria:

  1. Which steps need to be taken first to make the process simple?
  2. Which actions are most effective at preventing identity theft?
  3. Which items are you most likely to complete given time and resource constraints?

The detailed information for taking each of the steps is contained in the individual mind-set chapters of Privacy Means Profit, which are shown in italics and enclosed in parentheses following the steps, for easy identification. I strongly recommend that you refer back to each chapter for in depth explanations of each step.
I also highly recommend that you set up a schedule for yourself and complete the items phase by phase. Take 10 minutes a day, one hour per week, or one weekend a month and schedule time to ‘‘accumulate privacy.’’ If you have to wait on one of the action items—for example, you order your credit report but it will be 10 days before you receive it—move on to another of the items further down the list and return to the item you skipped when you receive the report.

I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: There is no silver bullet in the world of fraud or identity theft prevention. If someone tells you there is, he or she is probably trying to sell you something. Rather, the layered approach enumerated here will provide you with a base level of privacy, which you can add to over time. Click on the links provided below to begin implementing these phases today.

Phase 1: Credit

  1. Order and monitor your free credit report, and set up regular calendar reminders every four months to review your updated report. This can be completed online at or by calling 1–877–322–8228. This step is not necessary if you take step 2 and subscribe to an identity monitoring service, which has the added benefit of providing convenient, consistent surveillance delivered directly to your e-mail box. (Monitor)
  2. Sign up for a reputable identity monitoring service with 3-in-1 credit monitoring, cybertracking, theft restoration services, and recovery insurance. To learn more about specific surveillance products, visit (Monitor)
  3. Freeze your credit with Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. This step, while the most important for protecting your credit, makes it more difficult to take the two previous steps, which is why it is listed third. Visit to begin the process. If you do not wish to place a security freeze on your credit, at least place an extended fraud alert on your file. (Eliminate)

Set up online account alerts for all of your banking, credit card, mortgage, and investment accounts. At the same time, reduce at risk mail and switch to online statements, which allow you to easily and consistently monitor your accounts for signs of fraud. Begin using online bill pay instead of sending checks through the mail. (Monitor)

Phase 2: Wallet

  1. Protect your wallet or purse by keeping it with you or locked up at all times and by removing the following items (Eliminate):
  2. Sign your credit cards and include Photo ID Required on both the back and front. (Eliminate)
  3. Photocopy every piece of identity in your wallet and store the copies safely, in case the wallet is stolen and you need to shut down accounts quickly. (Eliminate)

Phase 3: Databases

  1. Opt out of information sharing, telemarketing, and junk mail by visiting or calling 1–888–5–OPT–OUT. (Eliminate)
  2. Place your name on the National Do Not Call Registry by visiting (Eliminate)
  3. Place your name on the Direct Marketing Association’s Do Not Mail list by visiting (Eliminate)

Phase 4: Computers

  1. Physically lock your computer in a secure place when in transit or when you are not using it. (Secure)
  2. Protect your desktop, laptop, or server computer with software security tools (preferably by hiring a professional to help you implement them) (Secure)
  3. Have your computer or cell phone digitally shredded or low-level formatted before selling, donating, or passing it on to someone else. (Destroy)
  4. Visit Product Reviews to learn more about the best tools to implement.

Phase 5: Mobile Computing

  1. Define what is at risk on your mobile data devices. (Protect)
  2. Verify acceptable use of your mobile data devices with your company. (Protect)
  3. Control exposure and eliminate unnecessary transport of your mobile data devices. (Protect)
  4. Encrypt individual data files, as well as your hard drive, SIM card, and SD memory card. (Protect)
  5. Utilize a secure wireless Internet connection. (Protect)
  6. Utilize SSL-encrypted e-mail, and e-mail sensitive data only when absolutely necessary. (Protect)
  7. Use a backpack or other carrying case to keep your mobile devices physically on you. (Protect)
  8. Consider adding a locking or alarm device to your laptop and mobile computing devices. (Protect)
  9. When going through security at the airport, don’t put your laptop on the X-ray belt until you are ready to walk through the metal detector; keep an eye on it until you reach the other side. (Protect)
  10. Utilize a LoJack-type software program to track your laptop if it is stolen. (Protect)
  11. Password-protect your cell phone and PDA with a sophisticated alphanumeric/symbol login. (Eliminate)
  12. Destroy any sensitive files that you store electronically after you are done using them. (Protect)

Phase 6: Physical Documents

  1. Purchase a high-quality, cross-cut document shredder and shred every document, disk, and credit card that you no longer need. Place the shredders conveniently, for easy access. (Destroy)
  2. Create a safe room, or purchase a fire safe or fire-rated filing cabinet and have it secured to the foundation of your home or office. Lock your essential documents according to the chart. (Lock)
  3. Lock your mail and mailbox against theft. (Lock)

Phase 7: Online

  1. Research your online identity. Google your name, phone number, address, e-mail address, and any other information you would like to verify. (Defend)
  2. Withhold or mask identity information when building your social networking profile, including: date of birth, address, phone number(s), and any password reminders that you use (high school, city born, pet’s name, etc.). (Defend)
  3. Read and understand your privacy settings on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, MySpace, and other social networking sites; adjust them to protect your identity information. (Defend)
  4. Vary online passwords and make them more sophisticated by using alphanumeric/symbol passwords. (Secure)
  5. Be alert and wary of ‘‘friends in distress’’ scams, posted links, and other social engineering scams. (Defend)
  6. Only ‘‘friend’’ your actual friends, and understand both the benefits and drawbacks of responding to quizzes and surveys, and utilizing widgets, groups, and third-party applications, before you add them. (Defend)
  7. Don’t forget: posts are permanent, public, and exploitable. (Defend)
  8. Protect your e-mail (Defend)
  9. Become knowledgeable about information collection performed by search engines, cookies, and tool bars. (Defend)
  10. Read, understand, and adjust your application privacy settings in Google, Google Docs, Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo!, or other online accounts. (Defend)
  11. Be aware and recognize phishing scams. (Secure)
  12. Shop securely online, patronizing only reputable, recognizable companies. (Secure)

Phase 8: Travel

  1. Travel light; simplify and minimize what you take with you. (Travel)
  2. Take precautions to protect your home and office while away. (Travel)
  3. Travel with a copy of your identity documents and give a second copy to a trusted friend. (Travel)
  4. While traveling, securely lock up client files, laptops, cell phones, and passports and other identity documents. (Travel)
  5. Carry a travel pouch, use a backpack, and watch your credit cards while out of your hands when traveling. (Travel)
  6. Don’t announce to strangers on social networking sites when you will be traveling. (Travel)
  7. Bank safely, using only well-lit ATMs in banks or credit union buildings. (Travel)
  8. When you return home, monitor your bank accounts and possibly rotate your account numbers. If possible and safe to do so, monitor your accounts while traveling. (Travel)
  9. Pick up your mail as soon as possible after you return; likewise retrieve any copies of identity documents that you left with friends. (Travel)

Phase 9: Social Engineering

  1. Learn to observe what is going on around you by slowing down. (Evaluate)
  2. React to requests for identity of any type with healthy skepticism. (Evaluate)
  3. Think ‘‘Hogwash!’’ when anyone tries to access your data. (Evaluate)
  4. Look for signs of manipulation (fear, rushing, bribery, flattery, trust, security). (Evaluate)
  5. Stop, look, and listen when your hogwash reflex triggers. (Evaluate)
  6. When in doubt, interrogate the enemy. (Evaluate)
  7. Implement the four phases of interrogation (Interrogate)
  8. Don’t be afraid to say no. (Interrogate)

Phase 10: Extras

  1. Create a dossier, complete with photocopies and logs of all crucial identity documents, for future reference. (Monitor)
  2. Use an electronic calendar (like Microsoft Outlook) to track your bill- ing cycles. (Monitor)
  3. Guard against shoulder surfing (someone peering over your shoulder or recording you on a cell phone video camera) to steal your PIN while at an ATM or retail checkout. (Evaluate)
  4. Monitor your annual Social Security statement. (Monitor)
  5. Eliminate or lock up all identity documents in your car. (Eliminate)
  6. Remove your name from other physical and online directories. (Eliminate)
  7. Scratch out all but the last four digits of any unmasked credit card numbers on the merchant’s copy of your credit card receipt. (Destroy)
  8. Implement all safeguards for your spouse or partner. (Secure)

For more ways to protect you and your organization from Identity Theft pick up a copy of my new book: Privacy Means Profit– in stores August 9, 2010.