October 4, 2013

Tips for keeping tabs on your online security

It’s easy to become complacent about your online security.

It’s easy to become complacent about your online security.

After all, a lot of time may have gone by without any apparent hacking of your accounts. You can remember most of your passwords by now and changing them would be such a hassle.

You suspect the security program you put on your computer a year or two ago is still working. Maybe you’ll consider tightening your security in a week or two. Ho hum.

Those attitudes can play right into the hands of scammers. October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month, and it’s a good time to tune up your awareness regarding the threats that are out there.

Anyone who has gone through the nightmare of having their online security compromised by identity theft or otherwise hacked accounts will tell you that preventive action is vastly simpler than after-the-fact hassles.

Shredding documents

Thieves who are out to steal your identity can still do it the old-fashioned way: by going through your trash.

Documents, printed emails and even discarded junk mail can be a treasure trove to those looking for ways to steal

your identity. If you don’t have a shredder, buy one. A good basic rule is to shred everything that is thrown away.

Here’s a quick checklist of items you may want to shred:

• Any document containing Social Security numbers, birthdates, PIN numbers or passwords.
• Banking documents or any others containing financial information.
• Leases, contracts or letters that include signatures.
• Pre-approved credit card applications.
• Medical or dental bills.
• Travel itineraries.
• Used airline tickets.
• Insurance forms.
• Utility billing statements.

Protection measures

The act of stealing your personal information, your identity and sending malicious viruses via emails to you is called “phishing.”

Cybercrooks are sophisticated at this scam. They create fake websites that look almost identical to the real thing. They send you emails with alarming notifications about your online accounts. They include links that, if clicked, will make you vulnerable to their attacks.

Here are some tips to protect you and your computer from phishing scammers:

• Don’t open emails, attachments or click on links sent to you from people you do not know.
• Be sure your computer has anti-virus software and be sure you are keeping it upgraded regularly.
• Emails with misspellings and grammatical errors that come to you unsolicited are almost certainly fake.
• Don’t respond to any email solicitation for your personal information.
• Look at the email’s URL. Hovering over the email can reveal this. Though the email looks legitimate, the URL may have a slight variation in spelling or have a different domain. That’s a sign of a fake.
• When in doubt as to the legitimacy of the email, contact the company directly by searching the Internet for their website and visiting it.
• Keep your machine clean. Have the latest operating system, software, Web browsers, anti-virus protections and apps. Always upgrade when sent a notification to do so.

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