Privacy is like money. Value it. Protect it.

DTE ethics and cyber safety experts talk about how to keep information safe

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Security breaches and threats to privacy are in the headlines daily.  And it’s something that most of us have experienced firsthand – even Tony Tocco, DTE Energy’s chief ethics and compliance officer.

While Tocco oversees the company’s comprehensive ethics, legal and regulatory compliance program, he’s not immune to the risks in today’s digital world.

“I was recently notified from a third party that my personal information may have been  “compromised,”  Tocco recalled.  “My natural instinct was to assess the risk.  I interpreted the term “compromised” to mean that there was a possibility, but no evidence that my information was in the hands of someone else. Although free credit monitoring services were offered, I felt there was moderate risk. As a result, I had a degree of discomfort based on the type of information that may have been accessible and a lack of confidence in the company that I have entrusted with the most personal information.”

In honor of Data Privacy Day celebrated on Jan. 28, Tocco and Tabice Ward, DTE Energy’s director of Information Protection and Security, remind the public that cyber-crime can happen to anyone.

Ward runs DTE Energy’s cyber security awareness program aimed at helping employees protect both company and personal assets.

Tocco and Ward offer the following tips to minimize the risks of your personal information getting into the wrong hands.

#1. Protect data. Don’t place confidential or private information on temporary share drives, leave it laying around on your desk or open on your computer while you are away.

#2. Safeguard social security numbers.  Keep your SSN card and other documents containing your SSN in a safe and secure location.  Push back when companies ask for your SSN.

#3. Leave your home address off of your GPS.  Instead, use a landmark nearby your home location. Your navigation will lead you close enough to home to find your way, but won’t lead a car thief, for example, to your door.

#4. Do savvy social networking. Use privacy settings to control who sees your posts.  Don’t post both the date and year of your birthday on anything public, like Facebook.  If you are required to provide a birthday for a web signup, use a false date to keep their demographic data in place, but without giving out your personal information.

#5. Create strong passwords and answers to security questions. Create unique passwords for each account, especially banking, email and social networking accounts.  Hint: adding a space or two within your password makes it harder to crack.

#6. Avoid security questions whose answers are easily known. When entering answers, shift your hands on the keyboard to provide an indecipherable answer.

#7. Protect information on your smart phone.  Smart phone users are more likely to become a victim of identity theft.  Password protect your phone and use the security lockout feature.  Also install anti-virus protection, turn off location services and don’t share app data.

#8. Don’t use a debit card.  Debit cards offer less legal protection than credit cards in the event of fraudulent purchases.  A lost or stolen debit card can result in your bank account being wiped out by a thief, without using your PIN number.  Use a credit card instead and ask your bank to replace your debit card with an ATM only card.

#9. Obtain a copy of your personal credit report annually. Ensure your personal information has not been compromised. The amended Fair Credit Reporting Act permits consumers to request a free copy of their credit report once every 12 months from each of the three major credit reporting agencies (i.e., Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion). Do not contact the three nationwide consumer reporting companies individually.  Order a free credit report: Via web: www.annualcreditreport.com.  Via phone: 1-877-322-8228.

#10.  Remember that privacy is like money.  Value it.  Protect it.