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Protect your privacy online: 7 ways that can help

Shred snail mail that has identity markers such

Shred snail mail that has identity markers such as Social Security number (even the last four digits). Photo Credit: Getty Images / iStockphoto

The recent announcement that a 2014 data breach at Yahoo had compromised the private information of up to 200 million users’ email accounts is the latest reminder that you can never do too much to try to protect your privacy. Here are some recommendations from Consumer Reports.

1. Check if your personal data is for sale online by searching Your email address and user names can be checked against 120 known breaches. If your email address pops up as breached, change your password immediately.

2. Use 10-Minute Mail ( when you have to provide an email address to access information on a website you don’t intend to visit again. The email address will stay valid up to 20 minutes and then self-destruct. 10-Minute Mail doesn’t retain personal data.

3. Shred snail mail that has identity markers such as Social Security number (even the last four digits), birth date, credit card numbers, account numbers from financial institutions, medical insurance numbers.

4. Unsolicited credit card offers sent to you can be intercepted by identity thieves who then have the cards sent to their address. Contact the Consumer Credit Reporting Industry at or 888-567-8688 to turn off most of these offers permanently or for five years.

5. Stop identity theft after a death by sending a copy of the death certificate to the IRS. Also, cancel the driver’s license of the deceased and notify credit agencies, banks, insurance companies and financial institutions.

6. Many businesses support Two-Factor Authentication (2FA), which requires a second piece of information — usually a set of numbers sent by text to your phone — other than your password to log into your account. You’ll find a partial list of companies that support 2FA at

7. If your fitness tracker allows you to turn off Bluetooth, do so unless you’re syncing data at the end of the day or workout. Many Bluetooth devices can broadcast sensitive information such as your user name, address, password and GPS data to sniffer software located nearby.

For more tips, see the November issue of Consumer Reports.


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