Internet & Computer Safeguards

Install a firewall on your home computer to prevent hackers from obtaining personal identification and financial data from your hard drive. This is especially important if you connect to the Internet by DSL, cable or high-speed modem. If you use a broadband or DSL connection, call the supplier to make sure your modem is equipped with a feature called NAT, or Network Address Translation. This makes it harder for criminals on the Internet to find your computer.

Install and regularly update virus protection software on your computer to prevent a worm or virus from causing your computer to send out files or other stored information.

Password-protect your computer, cell phone and/or PDA (e.g., Palm Pilot, Blackberry). Use a password made up of a combination of non-sequential numbers and letters and don't use obvious words or dates.

If your computer has a built-in encryption option for individual files or for your hard drives make sure that option is enabled or look into installing encryption software. Encryption will scramble your private information making it unreadable to unauthorized persons. Your computer's standard log-on password protection won't prevent a thief from accessing your hard drive if your computer is lost or stolen.

Before disposing of your computer, remove data by using a strong "wipe" utility program. Do not rely on the "delete" function to remove files containing sensitive information.

When shopping online, do business with companies that provide transaction security protection and have strong privacy and security policies and carefully review those policies before making purchases. Make sure that you are actually on the website you wish to be on as some online “phishers” create bogus sites that mimic real ones in order to capture unwary shoppers' personal information.

Do not use your Social Security number on the Internet.

When you are finished with any secure online session (such as online banking) always remember to log off or close your browser window.

Do not invite trouble in by downloading files or clicking on hyperlinks or attachments that you are not expecting or that are sent from unfamiliar people or destinations. Even emails that appear to be from familiar and trusted sources can be fraudulent.

If you must use a public computer, confirm first that it is not running a desktop search engine and that the proprietor has denied users administrative privileges so they can't install any programs that might be used to capture your emails or passwords.

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