Our world is more connected than ever as technology touches nearly every part of our daily lives. A 2016 Pew Research Center Survey that examined cybersecurity habits and values found that a majority of Americans have directly experienced some form of data theft or fraud. October is recognized as National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, and the Better Business Bureau is urging consumers to protect their information online.
Being connected at home, at work and when we’re at play often leaves us exposed to online fraud and theft. That’s why it’s so important for consumers to be proactive in understanding how to recognize potential problems and to protect personal information.
According to information in the FBI’s 2016 Internet Crime Report, cybercrime victims lost $1.33 billion in the United States. In 2016, Texas had the second-highest number of cybercrimes, with 21,441 victims reporting they lost $77.1 million.
BBB offers the following tips to online users to stay safe online:
- Own your online presence. When applicable, set the privacy and security settings on websites to your comfort level for information sharing. It’s OK to limit how you share information.
- Connect with caution. Beware of links in unsolicited emails or those found in ads on social media sites. Be cautious when using public Wi-Fi; these networks are not secure. When entering financial or credit card information, be sure that the website is security enabled (https).
- Make passwords long and strong. Combine capital and lowercase letters with numbers and symbols to create a more secure password. Use two-step verification when available.
- Secure smartphones. Be sure to password protect (the longer the better) and lock your smartphones. Turn off bluetooth and Wi-Fi when you don’t need them. Download apps only from trusted sources. Also, pay attention to cell phone bills - unauthorized charges and increased data usage may indicate the phone has been hacked.
BBB will be promoting National Cybersecurity Awareness Month and it invites the East Texas community to participate in our free fall Secure Your ID Day events, 12:30 to 4 p.m. Saturday at Austin Bank, 911 NW Loop 281, Longview, 75604; and 9 a.m. to noon Oct. 24 at Lindale Chamber of Commerce, 205 S. Main St., Lindale, 75771.
For more tips on how to be a savvy consumer and to find trustworthy businesses and charities, go to bbb.org. To report fraudulent activity or unscrupulous business practices, call the BBB Hotline: 903-581-8373, or report it via BBB ScamTracker.