The calendar start of Spring was already a few weeks back, but the season sprouts into bloom for most of us this month. It marks a time when many people like to spruce up around the house and clean up those nooks and crannies that have been piling up over the winter and this good habit can set a clear foundation for the good times ahead.
And just like those hard-to-reach or neglected places within your home, our digital lives can gather cobwebs that require a good dusting every now and again to ensure that a small mess doesn’t grow into a lingering issue. With that in mind, here are some Spring e-cleaning tips to help freshen up your online world and to clear out any unnecessary or potentially problematic clutter.
Address the Inbox
Most of us fall into two categories when it comes to our email inbox – those of us who manage every message as it comes in and delete daily and those who let every message, read or unread, pile up into eternity. If you fall into the former, consider yourself ahead of the curve. But if you’re in the latter, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get to cleaning.
Hanging on to every message that ever comes in might make some practical sense. You never know when you might need to search for a random bit of information or reference old correspondence. But these messages can also be a treasure trove of data and personal information that cyber thieves salivate over. If your email account gets hacked, think about any payment receipts you might have or tax return information or something with your Social Security number on it – you get the idea.
Emails are the storage center for much of our digital lives, so take the time to go through your inbox and delete everything that doesn’t need to be stored. You can utilize search features to help you filter through everything – which is a good approach and sounds a little less daunting than pouring over every message individually. If you really need or want to hang onto certain messages, you can export them onto a different storage system to avoid the insecurities of email.
Spruce Up Social Media and App Accounts
Much like your inbox, social media and app accounts hold a ton of personal data. Take some time to go through all your accounts, whether you are active on them or not. If you no longer use an app or platform, delete that account. Most of us have signed up for some app service on a whim and then stopped using it years ago. That app can store personal data or even track your location, allowing another point of easy access for criminals if a data breach occurs.
If you’re not even sure what accounts are currently active, go through the subscriptions set up on your devices and get rid of everything you don’t use or need. Take things a step further by reading through the app developer’s privacy agreement to see if you can completely remove your data. You might not be able to do that entirely, but it’s worth pursuing if you can. In the same vein, go through your social accounts and check the privacy settings to see if you can limit what data they store and gather. And if you don’t use the platform actively, maybe it’s time to say goodbye altogether.
Polish those Passwords
You might be a bit jaded on receiving password advice, but there’s still good reason for it. Many people don’t take the simple step of setting up unique passwords for all their online accounts, which poses obvious problems if any of those accounts become compromised. Locate all accounts you have (which can be part of cleaning out your inbox), and check to ensure that you don’t have any simple or repeat passwords. Update these passwords if you do and while you’re at it, delete any random password-protected accounts you have but don’t use.
Clean-Up Your Computer
Your computer or other electronic devices you use frequently should also be cleaned up from time to time to limit the data criminals can access if you get hacked. Go through all your documents and folders and delete anything that you don’t absolutely need that has personal information on it. That decade-old lease agreement or tax return can provide threat actors with all the information that they need to commit further fraud. Consider transferring important information onto an external drive that isn’t always connected to the internet if you really think you need that information.
Halt the Hoarding
If you are in the habit of hanging onto old devices that you don’t use, it’s probably time to get rid of them. While they might not pose an issue if they aren’t connected to the internet, the possibility of physical theft is not worth any perceived benefit of hanging onto them. You should transfer any data that you do want to hold onto and then wipe the device clean, so that there is no longer any personal information on the old device to steal. Then recycle the device rather than throw it in the trash. Many electronics stores offer free device recycling, and they can even help you to wipe them if you’re unsure of the process.
Don’t Be Daunted
Diving into digital Spring cleaning can be intimidating, but you don’t need to take care of all of the above recommended actions in a single day. Start the process and then make ongoing progress bit by bit until you have your virtual house in order. The peace of mind that comes from reduced risk of identity theft and other forms of fraud is more than worth the effort involved in the clean-up process.
LibertyID provides expert, full service, fully managed identity theft restoration to individuals, couples, extended families* and businesses. LibertyID has a 100% success rate in resolving all forms of identity fraud on behalf of our subscribers.
*LibertyID defines an extended family as: you, your spouse/partner, your parents and parents-in-law, and your children under the age of 25.