Once, when I was in a local doctor’s office, I couldn’t help but notice the countertop strewn with patient paperwork. There for anyone to see were the names, addresses and Social Security numbers of numerous patients, just waiting to be exploited. I’m much more concerned about my personal information being misused by a careless employee than I am by a creepy hacker breaking into my computer. My computer is locked down and secured. Those patient records were not.
Naturally, due diligence must be taken. Keep your computer updated and patched. Use current, updated antivirus software. Beware of where you click. Watch out for scams on social networking sites like Facebook. Research companies with which you wish to do business. Never answer or click on links found in unsolicited emails. Remember that your bank, as well as eBay, Paypal, Amazon and your Internet service provider will never send you an email saying, “You need to visit our website and update your personal information.”
Use secure passwords, and keep them secret. Use a secure Web browser (the program you use to visit websites) such as Mozilla’s Firefox that complies with Internet security standards.
Don’t pay for online purchases using checks, money orders or bank debit cards.
Instead, use PayPal or credit cards which offer anti-fraud protection; at least those purchases are protected by the Fair Credit Billing Act.
If you pay bills, or send any personal information using U.S. Mail, deposit that mail in collection boxes, rather than in the mailbox at your house. Finally, keep printed records of all of your purchases. Play it safe, and have a happy Internet shopping holiday.
Dave Moore has been performing computer consulting, repairs, security and networking in Oklahoma since 1984. He also teaches computer safety workshops for public and private organizations. He can be reached at 405-919-9901 or www.davemoorecomputers.com.