Every year on 28 January, the world commemorates Data Protection Day, an initiative by the United States-based National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA), a non-profit organisation promoting cybersecurity, privacy education, and awareness. In support of this day, it is essential to remind customers to protect their personal data.

Personal data is any information used to identify individuals, such as a banking Personal Identity Number (PIN). As a result, this critical information might fall into the wrong hands of scammers who can use it to benefit themselves by stealing from individuals. The following are important ways to guard personal data:

Fraudulent requests: Customers must never respond to an email, instant message, or phone call asking them for their banking details, such as their PIN. They should delete the message and call their financial institution directly to report the matter. By law, the four-digit number, PIN, is not shared with anyone, not even a bank official, family members, friends, or microlenders.

Passwords: Use strong passwords that do not contain the name or date of birth. Instead, use various numbers, words, and letters mixed in lower and upper cases, with a strong firewall, up-to-date antivirus, and antimalware protection.

Dispose and store information thoroughly: Shred personal and financial documents before putting them in the dustbin. Also, keep documents like payslips, tax returns, and copies of identity documents in a secure place.

Do not overshare on social media: Posting too many intimate details online is risky as fraudsters can pick up personal data from the postings. Customers should check their privacy settings to know who is seeing their posts and be cautious when posting location, hometown, birthday, or other personal details.

Use free Wi-Fi with caution: Most free public Wi-Fi networks have minimal security measures, which means others using the same network could easily access customer activity and retract personal data. It is always advisable for customers to use a secure, password-protected network.

Links and attachments: Cybercriminals often write phishing scams to look like legitimate communications from a bank or other corporate entities. Spelling errors or a different email address than the typical sender can indicate that the email is spam and must be deleted. Customers should not click on the links or download attachments from the emails.

Protecting personal data makes it difficult for fraudsters to steal from customers. Being proactive and vigilant remains one of the best defences to fight fraud.