Your office computer may contain a trove of your personal data. Even though you may trust coworkers to respect your privacy and avoid using your data for criminal activity, it’s impossible to know who might compromise your identity or what measures they may take to do so. In Florida, one woman was arrested and charged with stealing the identities of 22 different coworkers, a situation that could arise at virtually any workplace where employee information is stored.
During the onboarding process, your company likely retained and filed certain information for payroll. This information is up to the discretion and security of your employer to protect. However, more information may be available to fraudsters due to the casual transactions you make at your desk. Here are a few precautions to take when deciding to conduct personal business at work:
Make your passwords unique. One way a criminal coworker may access your personal information is by figuring out your password to work email, computer systems and other protected platforms. The average consumer notoriously reuses the same password across mail, banking, shopping and other online accounts without changing them regularly, if ever. With this in mind, getting into your office email could open up your checking account, shopping records and more.
Separate your “work” from your “life.” This one might be challenging for professionals who juggle many responsibilities. It can be tempting to use your work computer to pay bills, register for financial services, shop online and perform other financial actions. However, leaving a digital trail to your money matters on office servers and equipment can leave you vulnerable to identity theft. Even paper records like bills or invoices that correspond to travel, housing, utilities and car payments should be kept at home. Dedicate a work station in your house to deal with “life,” and reserve your work computer for work.
Don’t introduce other identities into the mix. The steps we’ve mentioned so far relate to your personal identity. However, spouses and parents may overlook those security measures with information belonging to family members and other loved ones. You might, for example, use your husband’s credit card to register your daughter for college classes. If you do this during your lunch break at work, now two or three different identities are involved in your computer history. Keeping your own personal data out of the office is challenging on its own, so don’t complicate it by presenting thieves even more material to steal and misuse.
Always log out. Most browsers prompt users to “save password” when new accounts are used in the platform. In an open office setting, this can give thieves easy access to your personal information. Do not save passwords on work computers and log out when you’re finished using a site. You might also view and edit the “cookie” settings, which can help reduce the amount of information which is retained after website use.
For the best protection, consider signing up for a credit monitoring services that can alert you to certain activity on your credit file that may be indicative of fraud. With this information, you can act immediately to protect yourself.