Be alert for online scammers that send thousands of unsolicited e-mails, hackers who use the Internet to access computers without permission, viruses that spread from computer to computer damage files and systems, and identity thieves that send pop-up messages to “phish” for personal information.
- Secure your computer with spam filters, anti-virus and anti-spyware, and a firewall and update these programs regularly.
- Protect your passwords and keep them in a secure place. Don’t share them on the Internet, the phone, or over e-mail.
- Change your passwords often. Avoid using the same password for multiple accounts. Use a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols. Be prudent when using wireless connections in public areas like airports, hotels, Internet cafes, and restaurants because your information may be intercepted to commit identity theft.
- Use encryption software to secure your wireless connection at home.
- Do not open files sent to you by strangers, click on hyperlinks or download programs from people you don’t know. Be careful with file-sharing programs. Opening these files could expose your system to a computer virus or “spyware,” which can capture your passwords or any information you type in to your keyboard.
- Back up important files stored on your computer. Copy them on to a removable disc, and store it in a safe and secure place.
- When disposing or recycling your computer clear the hard drive of personal, financial, and confidential information. Use a “wipe” utility program to overwrite the entire hard drive. Deleting files using key board commands or reformatting your hard drive may not be enough because the files may stay on the computer’s hard drive where they might be retrieved by strangers.