The Internet is a powerful tool for many day-to-day tasks. From checking email, staying in touch with friends to shopping and managing your finances. Most of us use the Internet for at least some of these tasks.
When using the Internet, it’s important to remember that there are certain safety tools to consider and utilize. No different than riding a bike and wearing a helmet or buckling your seatbelt when riding in a car, it’s important to maintain your safety.
SPAM & PHISHING
Cybercriminals have become quite savvy in their attempts to obtain your personal information and access to your accounts. Most of the time, these email messages will come with an ‘URGENT’ action that needs to be taken by you. Be very cautious of these emails.
Avoid being a victim by taking the following steps if you receive suspicious email messages:
• Never click on a suspicious link!
• Contact the company directly.
• Contact the company using the information provided on an account statement or back of a credit card.
• Search for the company online – but not with the information provided in the email.
Many of us use online shopping for gift-giving, home needs, uniforms, etc. When shopping make sure to check that the site is security enabled. Look for web addresses with https:// which indicates extra measures have been taken to secure your information.
Read reviews if using a vendor that you are not familiar with. I like to utilize http://www.consumerreports.org to conduct research on products that I’m preparing to purchase.
For companies both online and ‘brick and morter’ check them out here. Remember to only give information that is relevant to the purchase.
BANKING AND BILLS
• Use a secure connection when accessing banking or billing accounts.
• Always log-out when you are finished.
• Avoid clicking on email links asking for personal or login information. Go directly to the source. (See phishing above).
• Secure your computer. At a minimum make sure that your security/antivirus software is up to date and you have a firewall turned on.
Passwords can be quite bothersome. Most of us have to learn and possibly change work passwords on a frequent basis and trying to remember all of them can be daunting.
• Use two-step verification whenever possible. This provides a second layer of security to the accounts.
• Separate accounts = Separate passwords. At a minimum, keep you personal vs work passwords distinctly different. Having multiple passwords helps keep cyber-criminals from accessing all of your accounts if they are able to hack one password.
• If you have to keep a record of your passwords, make sure that you put them in a secure place away from your computer or digital device.
• Make your password a sentence! For something easy to remember try using an inspirational short sentence or a unique goal “Smelltheflowers.” “Livingthedream!” “#2milesAday” “Itsonly13Weeks!” are great examples of this. I love this process for passwords that are memorable yet secure. The upside is that you are constantly reminded of something that is important to you every time you login!
Knowing what to do in the case of ID theft or cyber crimes is imperative!
• Local law enforcement. Your local law enforcement agency (either police department or sheriff’s office) has an obligation to assist you, take a formal report, and make referrals to other agencies, when appropriate. Report your situation as soon as you find out about it. Some local agencies have detectives or departments that focus specifically on cybercrime.
• IC3. The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) will thoroughly review and evaluate your complaint and refer it to the appropriate federal, state, local, or international law enforcement or regulatory agency that has jurisdiction over the matter. Complaints may be filed online at ic3.gov/default.aspx.
• Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC does not resolve individual consumer complaints but does operate the Consumer Sentinel, a secure online database that is used by civil and criminal law enforcement authorities worldwide to detect patterns of wrong-doing, leading to investigations and prosecutions. File your complaint here. Victims of identity crime may receive additional help through the FTC hotline at 1-877-IDTHEFT (1-877-438-4388); the FTC website at identitytheft.gov provides resources for victims, businesses, and law enforcement.
• Your Local Victim Service Provider. Most communities in the United States have victim advocates ready to help following a crime. They can provide information, emotional support, and advocacy as needed. Find local victims’ service providers here.
Do you have tips for keeping yourself safe online? Please share them in the comments below!