Learn how to secure papers and files with sensitive information


Sensitive information includes account numbers, passwords, Social Security numbers and credit or debit card details. Securing paper documents and computer files with sensitive information reduces the risk of identity theft and financial exploitation.


To secure paper documents with sensitive information, such as tax forms and credit card statements:

  • Keep them separate from other people's documents

  • Store them in a secure area, such as a locked cabinet

  • Shred them if they're out-of-date or no longer needed

Common items with sensitive information include:

  • Receipts

  • Credit offers and applications

  • Doctors' statements and health records

  • Insurance forms

  • Checks

  • Expired charge cards

  • Labels on prescription bottles

To secure sensitive information on a computer:

  • Encrypt financial and personal records, such as bank statements

  • Use anti-virus software

  • Keep software and web browsers updated

  • Uninstall unused software

  • Scan for "spyware," malicious software that secretly collects usernames, passwords and other information

  • Avoid clicking links or opening attachments in unsolicited emails

  • Use "Secure Erase" software or other programs to completely erase deleted files

When using a shared computer:

  • Log out from online accounts and close web browsers before leaving

  • Encrypt files with sensitive information

  • Create separate computer logins that give each person access to their files

  • Avoid using shared computers in public places to access sensitive information, such as bank accounts

To keep online accounts, like bank accounts and email addresses, secure, use strong passwords that:

  • Are hard to guess

  • Don't include obvious personal information, like a spouse's name

  • Use a combination of capital and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters like % and &

  • Avoid words found in the dictionary

To protect passwords:

  • Use a different password for each online account

  • Change passwords often

  • Never share passwords with others

  • Store passwords in a secure place; never written down near the computer

  • Use a password manager program