BBB Offers the Following Tips for National Clean Out Your Computer and Safer Internet Day

Columbus, OH  – We all share a lot of information when we use the internet.

Our devices communicate with us – and with each other – for ease of shopping, banking, travel arrangements, and keeping in touch with friends. When online, it’s important to safeguard your data to help avoid scams, fraud, and identity theft.

For National Clean Out Your Computer Day (February 10) and National Safer Internet Day (February 11), Better Business Bureau and the National Cyber Security Alliance offer the following tips to help secure the privacy of your critical information:

.Share with care. What you post can last a lifetime, so think about who will see your posts and photos, how they will be perceived, and what information they reveal about you.

.Own your online presence. Set the privacy and security settings on web services and devices to your comfort level for information sharing. It’s OK to limit how and with whom you share information.

.Value your personal information. Think of your personal information like money: value and protect it. Be careful what sites you visit and be sure you are on a legitimate site before entering personal information. Be especially wary of communications that implore you to act immediately, offer something that sounds too good to be true, or ask for personal information.

.Make your passwords long and strong. Use long passwords with a combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers, and symbols – eight characters for most accounts, twelve characters for email and financial accounts. Don’t use the same password for multiple accounts, especially email and financial. Keep a paper list of your passwords in a safe place, not on or near your computer. Consider using a password vault application.

.Lock down your login. For your online accounts, use the strongest authentication tools available. Your usernames and passwords are not enough; consider two-factor authentication for key accounts like email, banking, and social media, especially for access on mobile devices.

.Don’t click on unfamiliar links. Whether at home or at work, don’t click on links from unfamiliar sources or unexpected correspondence. One false click can infect a whole computer… or a whole business.

.Pay attention to your Internet-connected devices. Smart thermostats, voice control systems, cars, even refrigerators are just the beginning of the growing list of devices that watch our homes and track our location. Read the privacy policy and understand what data is being collected and how it will be used.

.If You Don’t Like Personalized Advertising, You Can Opt Out. We’ve all encountered those ads that follow us around the web as we shop and explore. These ads are known as interest-based advertising. While some consumers like interest-based advertising for the personalization it provides, if it’s not your cup of tea, you can opt out by visiting www.aboutads.info/choices.

.Look for the “S”. When you’re browsing the web or shopping online, check to see if the site you’re looking at is legitimate with these tips. Then, look in the upper left-hand corner of your web browser for https://. This indicates a website is protected by an extra layer of encryption known as Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secured.
If you are entering personal or financial information into a website, make sure https is present. And if you want to learn more about this type of technology, visit https://www.bbb.org/bbbsecure.

.Delete Old Apps. Is there a dating app you downloaded last year that you don’t use anymore, or an app that provided you with some new recipes that you stopped using? Even though you don’t use them anymore, these apps might be collecting data about how you use your device in the background. Declutter your life and delete old apps to help maintain your privacy.

.Update Your Software. Software updates are important because as technology advances, cyber criminals and attackers get better at cracking encryption and stealing your data. So when your phone or your desktop computer’s operating system prompts you to update your software, don’t sleep on it. Update your software to make sure your digital experience is safe and secure.

Charitable organizations also need to be aware of data privacy. Donors and others communicate online with charities via their websites, emails and other online means and need to be informed about what policies are in place to address privacy concerns. BBB Wise Giving Alliance published a blog article containing advice for charities and donors regarding data privacy concerns.

To report a scam, go to BBB Scam Tracker.

Check bbb.org for more information on how to avoid scams.