Tips for protecting against malware, scams and identity theft
- Don't add friends you don't actually know when using social networking sites. Often the "free" code available in social networking sites, such as MySpace and Facebook is spyware and will track your activity or even display unwanted ads.
- Do not give out personal information on your social networking site profile, such as your address, telephone number, work address or telephone number, or the name and location of your school.
- Never get together with someone you "meet" on a website, they may not be who they say they are. If for some reason you still choose to meet the person, they should discuss it with their parents first, and arrange the meeting in a public place and bring some friends.
- Don't shop online while using an unencrypted or open wireless network. Hackers and thieves can use your open/unencrypted or a store's wireless network to break into your computer and capture your financial information.
- Secure your computer with latest security software and updates. Before connecting to the Internet, take the following three core precautions: 1) Install anti-virus and anti-spyware programs and keep them up to date; 2) Install a firewall; 3) Regularly update operating software.
- Don't give away your financial information to unsecured websites. Make sure when providing payment information, the beginning of the Web site URL address changes from http to https, indicating that the purchase is encrypted or secured.
- Protect personal information with common sense and technology. Be suspicious if someone unexpectedly asks for personal information. Identity thieves send out bogus emails about problems with consumers' accounts to lure them into divulging personal information. Consider using multi-factor authentication services when offered by online retailers as a way to secure your information.
- Confirm email correspondences from your financial institution directly. If you receive an email from your bank or other institution that you are unsure of, simply call the bank directly to confirm they need the information requested. Don't just reply with the information without checking first.
- If you are not familiar with the seller or the web site, do some research. You can contact the Better Business Bureau in the state where the company is located (by telephone or at bbb.com), and investigate the number and nature of complaints against the seller. Sometimes, a basic Internet search will reveal an actual chat room or web site (commonly called "gripe-sites") on which civic-minded fellow consumers have posted complaints warning of a company's practices.