Whether you work from home or just have a space for occasional work and computer use, your home office contains a lot of your personal information. Without good organization, this room can easily become chaotic and in that mess, you could end up exposing yourself to identity theft. To avoid the vulnerability, here are four ways you can clean up your home office and improve your personal security:
- Shred documents
The biggest source of disorganization in your home office is probably old documents. You know they’re important, and that’s why you’ve kept them instead of just thrown them away. According to the New York Times, one of the easiest ways to steal an identity is through dumpster diving.
“What you’re throwing away is your identity,” Linda Foley, the founder of the Identity Theft Resource Center, explained to the NY Times. “It is like throwing away a thousand dollars.”
The best way to dispose of documents containing personal or sensitive information is by shredding them. Any home office absolutely requires its own shredder, regardless of how much work you’re doing in there. Anything from junk mail to important financial documents should be put through the shredder, not recycled or thrown out.
The Identity Theft Resource Center says the most important documents to shred are offers from financial companies, such as pre-approved credit cards, which may have barcodes for automatic processing. Identity thieves tend to use these pieces of junk mail to sign up for credit cards with a new address, so victims don’t realize what’s happened until it’s too late.
- Invest in a safe or locked filing cabinet
Of course, not every document you have can or should be shredded. In these cases, your best bet will be investing in some sort of locked storage facility, such as a fireproof filing cabinet or a safe, depending on what you need to store. This will protect important documents from damage and thieves.
- Create an organizational system
One problem with a disorganized home office is not having a specific place for your belongings. While that problem may seem fairly harmless, it can cause even more distress if you’re unable to recognize when something is missing. For your own sanity, create a storage system that you understand so you know exactly where everything is supposed to be, but for your security, be sure it’s not a system that can be easily learned by an intruder.
- Manage your passwords
According to PC Magazine, the most popular passwords are often the worst and easiest to guess. This is usually because good passwords are hard to think of and even harder to remember. Luckily, there is a solution to the conundrum. For your home office organization, you can install a password manager that will help you both generate random passwords and remember them. This way, you can create different passwords for all your accounts and prioritize security in your home office.
When you first begin using a password manager, you’ll want to identify which passwords are weak and need updating. Some password managing programs will complete this step for you and offer suggestions for new, stronger passwords. Others automatically change the password for you. If you’re not sure which type of password manager is right for you, shop around. There are plenty of programs out there for sale and some for free. If you have a lot of accounts that need to be secure, a more comprehensive password manager is probably right for you.
On top of these tips, you can also invest in a credit monitoring service that can alert you of certain activity that may indicate fraud. This can offer you a peace of mind knowing you’re taking the steps to safeguard your identity.