Security Lock on Laptop ScreenSome virtual assistants are more than happy to handle tasks for you that require personal information. But is it really necessary to go around handing out information like the password to your email or your credit card number?

How personal is too personal?

You may want your virtual assistant to purchase something on your behalf. Most assistants will want your credit card to make the purchase. Perhaps you want your virtual assistant to respond to emails for you — but she’ll need to get into your email account to do it. Most of us aren’t comfortable handing out that sort of information, for good reasons.

Now, there are a couple of different approaches you can take to protect your information. First, you can outsource only tasks that don’t require giving out private information. Second, you can choose a virtual assistant whom you feel you can trust with such information. Third, you can create limited accounts — such as a secondary email address — that prevents your virtual assistant from having unfettered access to all your personal email. If you’re willing to trust your assistant with personal information, you can often get quite a bit more done, but you also run the risk of someone using your information inappropriately. Most virtual assistants are professionals, but it only takes one problem.

One factor to keep in mind is that certain pieces of information act as gateways: if someone has the password to your email account, he may be able to get access to your bank account by requesting a new password or other information.

Ask your virtual assistant

If you’re willing to trust your virtual assistant with even some of your private information, you have every right to ask your assistant what precautions she’ll take to protect your information. Many outsourcing organizations are secure operations, but it doesn’t hurt to ask for details.

Check on your accounts

If you do give out personal information, make a point of checking your account activity that corresponds with that information. Has anything unusual been charged to the credit card number you provided to your personal assistant? You don’t need to be vigilant, but you do need to pay just as much attention as if you had an employee in your office that you provided with personal information. Changing your passwords and other information is always an option if you’re worried about the way your personal information is being used.

While you’re checking on your financial accounts, consider checking your credit report. You can obtain a free copy of your credit report from AnnualCreditReport.com and all three major credit monitoring agencies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) offer additional copies. Many people also recommend credit monitoring systems or identity theft protection services, such as LifeLock. You can actually take most of the actions these services offer on your own and for free — LifeLock, for instance, simply puts fraud alerts on your credit history, requiring credit agencies to tell anyone offering you new credit that there is a potential for fraud on your account. Fraud alerts do not, however, actually prevent anyone from using your information. The best option is generally to just check your credit report on a regular basis if you have any concerns about how your personal information may be used.

Image credit: DNY59 / iStockphoto

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