Safer Website and Email Security

April 6, 2012
With the constant threats of identity theft and financial fraud, it can be worrisome and difficult to know if you are doing all you can to protect yourself and your family. It can be overwhelming to read all the information available about the potential hazards of using the web and email. But the truth is most Americans conduct some type of financial business over the Internet on a regular basis. Whether it’s paying bills, checking your bank account, or making purchases, a great deal of commerce takes place via websites. There are some essential safety rules which everyone should know and remember when using websites and email. By doing this, you can lower your risk of becoming a target and victim of identity thieves and scam artists.

The following helpful suggestions should improve your online safety:

Your Computer
  • Update Automatically. Almost all commercial operating systems (OS) will let you download and install security updates automatically. These procedures only take a few moments and they will ensure that your computer has important fixes and patches that you yourself might overlook. If you have questions about your own personal operating system, visit the publisher’s website and go to the help section. It should tell you how to set up the automatic update feature.
  • Protect Your System. Some of the most serious threats to identity occur when hackers use viruses and spyware to record your personal information and send it back to their sources. An easy way to prevent this is by installing and maintaining a virus scanner and spyware removal tool. This is one of the best investments you can make to protect your personal information. If you don’t already have this, purchase one as soon as possible. Once installed, conduct a full-system scan for both viruses and spyware.
Internet Browsing
  • Say No to Pop-Ups. Many times, pop-up advertisements are perfectly harmless. But they also can be products of malicious software on your computer or scam artists attempting to access your personal information. The best way to avoid this problem is by installing a pop-up blocker or activating the one that is built into your web browser. If you’re not familiar with this feature, visit the website for whatever web browser you routinely use. The most common ones are Mozilla Firefox, Safari, and Internet Explorer.
  • Check for Secure Sites. Use caution when shopping or banking online. Most financial institutions will ask you to set up a variety of different safety features in addition to the normal username and password. Never give out personal information unless you are absolutely sure that the website is genuine and secure. Know the online sites where you shop and are confident of their honesty. For more information, visit our page on Recognizing Identity Theft Techniques.
Email Security
  • Don't Trust Everyone. When it comes to email security, perhaps the better way to say it is “don’t trust anyone”. No source which contacts you through email should ever ask for or require that you give out personal information via email. Many scammers use emails which resemble a legitimate financial institution (maybe even your own personal one) and which at first, seem authentic. The email may contain links. If you receive such an email which asks for bank information, your Social Security number, or credit card information, be very cautious. Carefully read the email and look for tell-tale signs of a fraudulent request- grammatically incorrect wording and/or misspelled words. . Never clink on a link contained in this type of email and never send a reply. Simply delete it.
  • Be Careful with Attachments. If you do not know the sender, never open an attachment contained in an email. Attachments can contain viruses and spyware which, once opened, can seriously damage your computer and put all your information at risk. Be absolutely certain of the identity of the sender before downloading an attachment. Always scan it with your virus scanner to be sure before opening it.