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Last year, more than 3 billion people around the globe logged on to the internet.  For most users, the Internet is a convenient way to shop, connect with loved ones and do research assignments.  But there are some people who surf the net with ulterior motives.  Every three seconds someone purportedly becomes a victim of identity theft due to cyber crime.  Knowing how to properly protect yourself can keep you from being next.  Here are our tips for staying safe online.

Install security software

Whether you’re on your smart phone, laptop or tablet, you want to keep your device safe.  The easiest way to do so is to install security software.  With so many options available, the hardest part may be deciding which one to choose.  Look for antivirus software that’s easy to use, runs smoothly with other programs and offers protection from a variety of threats.  Since malicious software is constantly evolving, your antivirus software must be able to do the same.  Set your software to automatically update and perform routine scans.  The more frequent the updates, the better.

Choose strong passwords

Forget all the rules you’ve heard about changing your password every 60-90 days.  What’s more important is choosing a strong password from the start.  That may sound like a no-brainer but there are people who still think it’s acceptable to use “password” as their password.  As if that’s not bad enough, when forced to update their information they’ll do it in a predictable way.  For example, they’ll swap letters for special characters or simply add a number to the end.  Your password needs to be as unpredictable as possible to keep your account safe.  The FTC recommends selecting one that’s at least 12 characters long and includes a mixture of letters, numbers and special characters.  It’s also important that you don’t repeat the same password for multiple accounts.

Set up a recovery phone number or email address

Everyone has been locked out of their account at one point or another.  Whether it’s due to a forgotten password or security threat, you want to be able to regain access quickly.  We recommend updating your account information to include a recovery phone number or email address.  This will allow customer service to contact you right away if there’s an issue with your account.

Be leery of unsolicited emails

Congratulations!  You just won a $10,000 cash prize from a contest you didn’t even enter.   Please send us your full name, date of birth and address to claim your winnings.  Sounds ridiculous, right?  But you’d be surprised how many people fall for the scam anyway.  There’s just something about free money that makes people throw common sense out the window.  That’s why phishing schemes are so popular.  For those who don’t know, phishing is when criminals impersonate legitimate businesses to get you to reveal personal information.  If you receive an email promising an unexpected inheritance, cash prize or requesting sensitive information, chances are it’s a scam.  Click the spam button and move on.

Stop oversharing

It’s natural to want to share special moments in your life but sometimes it pays to zip your lips.  You don’t want people to know everything about you just by scoping out your social media.  Be mindful of what you post and stay away from anything that can be used to answer popular security questions.  This includes your mother’s maiden name, the street you grew up on and things of that nature.  When posting pictures or updating your status, don’t tag your location.  Not only does it make you an easy target for stalkers, it also gives robbers the green light to break into your home since you’re obviously not there.