Protecting Yourself and Your Data Online

Some things to do to keep your computer and your financial information safe and protected while online.

First, a word about phishers. Phishing is a tactic used by scammers to try to lure you into revealing sensitive data, such as passwords, credit card numbers, etc. They're fishing for confidential information. To do this, they try to craft authentic looking emails, making it appear as though you are being contacted by your bank, your credit card company, Paypal, eBay, etc. They often go so far as to including the company's logo. And, some of these emails do look real (some, not so much).

If you click on the link (which you should not), the page you are taken to will also often look real (but look up at the address bar).

It's your job to be smarter than the crooks. Every unsolicited email should be looked at suspiciously with the belief that it is a phish attempt.

To protect yourself and your information online, you should:

  • Have a firewall between your computer and the Internet.
  • Run anti-virus, spyware, and ad-aware software. Don't forget to regularly update the definitions.
  • Never provide your credit card information via email.
  • Be careful about clicking on links in emails. It's better to type the URL in manually. Always check the address bar to ensure you have not been redirected. (Watch out for popups as well!)
  • Before entering financial information, first look for the lock icon and https in your address bar to determine if you are on a secure site.
  • If in doubt, use the contact information from one of your statements to initiate a phone call to the company.

Many of the rules above apply to phone calls as well. Be suspicious of any unsolicited contact that asks for personal and confidential data.

If you believe your financial information has been compromised or stolen, alert your financial institution / credit card company immediately. Also contact the three major credit reporting agencies – Equifax, Experian, Transunion – (if you contact one, they are supposed to contact the others…I personally would contact all three myself). Monitor your credit reports and account statements closely.

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