It’s essential to protect your important documents.
Protecting documents from a natural disaster or fire will keep the original document intact for when you need it.
Likewise, keeping digital files secure will prevent your documents from being stolen or corrupted.
In this guide, we’ll explore how to keep important documents safe physically and digitally.
How to store important documents at home
1. Store physical copies in a secure location
A secured location can be a safety deposit box, document safe, or filing system in your home or office. Additionally, these items might have the additional safety feature of a lock or passcode.
Normally, paper takes about 2 to 6 weeks to degrade. However, when stored out of direct light in a cool, dry place, paper can take several years to degrade.
Safely storing your documents will give you access to important and personal papers for years to come.
Storing documents keeps your identity safe and makes it easier to locate important papers at a moment’s notice.
Make sure that the option you choose has enough storage space to keep important documents without demanding a large amount of square footage in your home.
If you have a place where a deposit box can be hidden in plain sight, this can be an added bonus.
2. Consider using a fireproof and waterproof safe for added protection
Consider using a fireproof and waterproof safe where important files should have their own plastic page.
These types of safety deposit boxes are specifically designed to withstand high temperatures and water damage, ensuring the preservation and safety of your documents in case of unforeseen emergencies or disasters. The plastic page provides an additional barrier of protection, keeping your documents safe from moisture and potential damage.
How to store important documents online
Storing important documents is more than securing them physically.
With the potential of unlimited digital storage when you store them online, any financial document, bank statements, and important documents can be located by a simply search.
1. Make digital backups
Creating a digital backup for your documents is one way to ensure that you have an extra copy to access at any time.
You can save these electronic and digital copies on an external hard drive, cloud storage service, or digital filing cabinet to prevent losing essential documents from computer crashes, viruses, or other issues.
Shoeboxed and Magic Envelope, for example, are easy on-the-go scanners for financial documents, such as receipts.
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2. Use password protection on sensitive documents
Setting a password on sensitive documents restricts access to the document that can only be lifted by entering the password.
Using a password can also restrict certain actions within the document, such as editing or printing.
Sensitive documents may include:
- Birth certificates
- Divorce or marriage certificates
- Death certificates
- Child custody papers
b. Personal documents
- Social Security cards
- Educational enrollment
- Medical records
- Citizenship-related documents
c. Financial records
- bank or credit union statements
- Credit card statements
- Tax records such as annual tax returns or business documents
- Estate-planning documents
- Loan information
Always keep the original documents in a secure location.
Any of these digitally-copied items should have password protection on it, as over 212.4 million American users had their data breached in 2021.
For most computing systems, you can follow the steps below to secure your digital document with a password:
- File > Info > Protect document > Encrypt with Password
You can also search for passwords in your computer help bar to add a password to your files
3. Shred old documents
It’s a good idea to check if any documents are no longer needed. If they aren’t needed, then you can shred them to declutter your papers.
Each document has its own rule of thumb for when it can be shredded.
For example, you should immediately shred your paystub once the money is transferred into your account.
Using a shredder protects any of your personal information, such as your home address and card information.
4. Level up with document encryption
Encrypting a document is different from using a document password.
Instead of using a password, encryption involves scrambling what’s inside the document. Those without the passcode will be unable to read it unless the correct code is entered.
To prevent your documents from getting stolen, it’s recommended to use document encryption when storing documents online, especially if you’re sending any of them through email.
This process will ensure confidential information, such as social security numbers and credit card numbers, is protected from hackers or phishing attacks.
You may need to install document-encoding software. That said, some digital filing systems, such as Microsoft Office, already allow you to encrypt your document.
Frequently asked questions
You can use a digital filing system on your computer, an external hard drive, or a cloud storage space.
Use password protection or document encryption on your sensitive documents, such as financial records, legal contracts, personal identification documents, and medical records. So if these files are compromised, unauthorized individuals won’t be able to access the information.
Store physical documents in a secure location in a fireproof and waterproof safe box. If the location were to flood or burn, you’re still able to store important documents.
A computer or an external hard drive is a great location for digital documents. Going digital is convenient, but remember to add password protection or document encryption to keep your documents safe.
Learning how to keep important documents safe protects your identity.
By taking these steps, you’ll be able to secure your documents and know they’ll be safe until you’re ready to access them.
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