Tips for securing your data

FBI keeps updated list of Internet scams

Greg Merschel works on his computer at work

Trying to keep your e-mail and social networking sites safe from hackers and scammers can seem like an uphill battle. Yet having someone guess your e-mail password and break into your account, only to spread pleas for money or shameless ads of self promotion among your dearest friends and family, can be a humiliating experience, not to mention that it can put you at risk for ID theft.

Safeguarding your passwords is the first line of defense, said local computer expert Rick Castellini. Passwords should be thoughtfully constructed with upper and lowercase letters. Adding symbols and a number makes it harder for hackers, and “the longer the password the better,” he said.

Castellini recommends computer users keep two e-mail accounts, with one designated as a safe account. Internet shopping and correspondence with friends and family who like to forward along widely-circulated messages should be contained to one address.

The other “clean” address should only be given out to trusted family and friends.

Castellini said it appears more people are heeding this advice, and he commends efforts like that of his bank, which requires users to change passwords every three months in order to receive online financial information.

About once a month, the Federal Bureau of Investigation updates a list of Internet scams. One of the latest scams, reported in late April, claims that a former U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent has detained a diplomat carrying millions of dollars.

The money is an inheritance to be delivered to the e-mail recipient. However, like so many similar scams, the e-mail recipient must first reply via e-mail with personal information, including a back account number.

As always, the FBI advises e-mailers to not respond to suspicious messages and never give out any personal information, such as a Social Security number, bank account number, phone numbers and birthdates, either over the phone or the Internet.


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