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Consumer Tips

What You Can Do to Protect Your Personal Identity Online

Safeguard your personal information online by using these tips to protect yourself against cyber threats. 

  1. Be wary of “phishing” emails.  
    "Phishing" (pronounced fishing) is a scheme used to lure consumers into providing personal and financial information online.  Avoid opening any questionable emails requesting or including your username or password, particularly if the email urges you to provide information to restore a deactivated account, verify a financial statement, or obtain some type of reward.

    Typical phishing requests are not personalized.  Unlike your bank or credit card company that may include your name or an account identifier, phishing requests typically keep the salutation and information about you generic.  If you have opened an email that seems suspicious or is from an unknown source, do not open any attachments or links it may contain, and delete the email. 
  2. Know who you are dealing with. 
    Become familiar with the organizations you interact with regularly by bookmarking frequently used websites, recognizing company logos, and being aware of other unique identifiers.   Be suspicious of numerical web addresses; phony websites and emails may try to fool you by looking official.  A website that uses a numerical web address or includes an "@" sign within the address could be an indicator that the website is fraudulent.  Typically, a company's Web address includes a portion of the company’s name followed by .com, .org, .edu or .net.  
  3. Keep your personal information close. 
    Only provide personal information, such as your credit card or Social Security number, to organizations you know and trust.  You should never include sensitive information in an email or on any website you have not confirmed as legitimate and secure.  
  4. Pay attention to security warnings. 
    Avoid websites or emails that your computer system alerts you as being potentially unsecure.  Your web browser may alert you that the website you are attempting to visit is unsafe, or  your email program may flag a message as suspicious.  Do not interact with websites or emails you cannot verify as trustworthy. 
  5. Protect your passwords. 
    Memorize your passwords.  Do not write them down or share them with anyone.  Change your passwords regularly and use a combination of letters, numbers, and special characters, such as @, %, &, and #.
  6. Keep your computer’s operating system up to date. 
    If your computer is more than five years old, its operating system (e.g. Windows 7 or Mac 10.6) may not offer the same level of protection as a newer system.  The manufacturer of the operating system may provide frequent software updates to help make your computer more secure.  For more information, visit:
  7. Use a current Web browser. 
    The most recent Web browsers have the latest security technology that helps to protect your online information.  Some websites are using new technology that is not compatible with older Web browsers.
  8. Install a personal firewall. 
    Though most office networks include firewall protection, your home computer may benefit from this added level of security.  Check to see if your operating system already includes a firewall prior to purchasing a separate one.
  9. Install, run, and keep anti-virus software updated. 
    Commercially available virus protection software helps reduce the risk of contracting computer viruses that can compromise your computer’s security.  These programs offer regular updates to safeguard your system.
  10. Avoid downloading programs from unknown sources. 
    Downloads from unfamiliar sources may contain hidden programs or viruses that can compromise your computer's security.
  11. Disconnect from the Internet when not in use. 
    Dedicated services such as DSL or high-speed cable provide a constant connection between your computer and the Internet.  Even if you have a firewall installed, as an additional step to help protect yourself, disconnect from the Internet when not in use to avoid unwanted access to your computer.