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Internet safety

The Internet provides consumers with unprecedented access to information, entertainment, shopping opportunities and online banking convenience. However, the Internet is also inhabited by thieves and scam artists looking to make a quick buck or simply cause havoc by spreading viruses.

These following tips are recommended to make your Internet experience safer, as well as protect your information online.

  1. Keep your personal and financial information private
    When you’re online, your personal information is like gold to thieves and predators. Keep your information to yourself, and don’t be fooled by anyone. Easier said than done? Not if you keep these tips in mind:

    • Never respond to emails that ask for your personal information. Do not click on links in the message, or call phone numbers given in the message.
    • Don't cut and paste a link from the message into your web browser. Thieves can make links look like they go one place, but then actually take you to a look-alike site.
    • Some thieves send an email that appears to be from a legitimate business. If you are concerned about your account, contact the company using a phone number you know is real. If you want to go to a business's website, type the web address into your browser yourself.
    • Shop only at secure sites, and don't be afraid to use your credit card or check card at a secure site if you are using a secure browser like Firefox, Microsoft Explorer or Safari. Look for a padlock icon on your browser's status bar, which indicates that the page is encrypted to make sure your information is secure and cannot be intercepted.

  2. Know who you are dealing with
    Only do business with companies you know and trust. Look for the seller's physical address and preferably a phone and fax number on their website. Other tips include:

    • Call the seller's phone number, so you know you can reach them if you need to. If you can't find a phone number, take your business somewhere else.
    • Search the company’s name in a search engine: Look for reviews and see what other consumers have to say about the company.

  3. Use security software with automatic updates
    Computer viruses and scams change quickly, so it’s important to stay current with all your security software. You should have anti-virus, anti-spyware software and a firewall installed.

  4. Keep your operating system and Web browser up-to-date
    Hackers take advantage of computers that don’t have the latest security updates installed. Operating system companies (such as Microsoft such as Apple) issue security patches for flaws that they find in their systems, so it's important to set your operating system and web browser software to download and install security patches automatically.

  5. Protect Your Passwords
    Secure your passwords in a safe location. Keep them out of plain sight. Do not send your passwords over email. When creating passwords, consider the following tips:

    • Use at least eight characters and include numbers or symbols. The longer the password, the more secure it is.
    • Stay away from common words. Some software programs let hackers try every word in the dictionary to hack your password.
    • Never use personal information, such as your child’s name or birth date, as your password or login ID.
    • Change your passwords regularly. Experts recommend every 90 days.
    • Use a different password for each account you access.

  6. Back up your files
    No computer is completely safe from hackers and viruses. It is wise to back up your important files on a storage device separate from your computer. This can include a removable disc (CD or DVD) or external hard drive.

  7. Act quickly
    You know your computer best. If something appears to be wrong or you suspect a virus, do not shop, bank or enter your passwords or other sensitive information. Check your security software, updating if necessary. Delete anything detected as suspect.
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