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Steps toward a more secure 2015

As the New Year stretches before us, it’s a good time to take those security measures that we all tend to put off. Security means different things, of course. There is the physical security of one’s home and belongings, the financial security of one’s savings and income and, the security of one’s identity from those who would steal it.

The Better Business Bureau has advice for consumers to ensure that their security is not compromised in the coming year.

Home inventory

Consider spending time this January assessing your home and belongings and creating a home inventory. Kansans are certainly no strangers to threats like severe storms, tornadoes, fires and burglaries. But during the traumatic aftermath of such events, it’s unlikely you will be able to accurately list everything lost or damaged for insurance purposes. A well-prepared home inventory list can come in handy.

Many apps are available to assist you. Your insurance company may have tools to make the job easier as well. Remember to store the list off-site to make sure it isn’t lost in the same disastrous event that damages your home.

A good home inventory will include:

▪ A list of all items in your home, including where purchased and price paid. (Include receipts or canceled checks, if available.)

▪ Video or photo record of your home’s contents.

▪ Brand, model number and serial number of everything.

▪ Clothes, shoes and other incidental items.

▪ Attic, basement, garage and storage shed contents.

Yes, the process of making a home inventory list seems challenging. But it will help you get full value for your loss from your insurance company.

Digital threats

Consider yourself fortunate if you have not been victimized by identity thieves or data breaches. According to the Identity Theft Resource Center website, there were 4,912 recorded data breaches between 2005 and 2014. The total number of records exposed in those breaches: more than 673 million.

Take the time to secure your privacy by:

▪ Locking your financial documents and records in a safe place at home.

▪ Limiting what you carry. Take only the identification, credit and debit cards you need – never your Social Security card.

▪ Shredding receipts, credit offers, applications, insurance forms, doctors’ statements, checks, bank statements and expired cards.

▪ Destroying labels on prescription bottles before discarding. Don’t share any medical information with anyone offering free services or products.

▪ Taking outgoing mail to post office collection boxes and not letting mail sit in your mailbox for extended periods.

▪ Never giving out personal information on the phone, e-mail or regular mail unless you initiated the contact.

▪ Avoid clicking on links in e-mails and texts that come unsolicited.

▪ Wiping out all your information from computers and other devices before disposing of them. The Federal Trade Commission website has specific advice about how to do this.

▪ Using strong passwords and keeping them private. Change them every 3 months.

▪ Limiting personal information shared on social media.

▪ Using anti-virus and anti-spyware software on computers as well as a firewall. Stay diligent about updating them.

▪ Using only secure wireless networks and avoiding sending personal information over public Wi-Fi.

Denise Groene is director of the Better Business Bureau of Kansas. The office may be reached at 800-856-2417 or bbbinc.org.

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