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From choosing smart passwords to knowing which Web sites honor the privacy of your children, here are some tips to help you remain in control of your personal information.

Smart Passwords
Shopping Online
Protect Your Computer
Children Online

Smart Passwords

Passwords are required at various stages of computer use and online shopping to help prevent misuse of your computer or Personally Identifiable Information (PII). Here are some tips for choosing smart passwords and protecting them from snoops.

Password Do's and Don't's
Do Don't
  • Do create a password using a string of at least five letters and numbers.
  • Do use one password for your computer login and a different password for online orders.
  • Do be very careful about responding to an e-mail, phone call, fax or letter from anyone who asks for your password(s).
  • Do give your password and credit-card number only in a secure connection on a Web site.
  • Do change your password periodically.

  • Don't use your address, birth date, phone number, recognizable words or your pet's name.
  • Don't share your passwords with anyone.
  • Don't write down any password near your computer where someone could see it.
  • Don't carry your password in your purse or billfold.
  • Don't give your password and credit-card number in e-mail.

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Shopping Online

When shopping online, you should be sure that you only send sensitive information over a secure Internet connection. Today's technology can scramble sensitive information, such as your credit-card number, to ensure that your payment information cannot be read by anyone else or changed along the way.

To determine whether you have that protection when you are sending payment information on the Web, look for these signs:

  • The words "Secure Sockets Layer (SSL)" or a pop-up box that says you are entering a secure area

  • A picture of an unbroken key or closed lock in your browser window. If you see a broken key or an open lock, do not proceed.

  • The Web address on the page that asks for your credit-card information begins with "https:" instead of "http:". If you see "https:" the security technology is in place.

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Protect Your Computer

Whether you use dial-up or high-speed Internet access, you could be vulnerable to hackers or viruses. The following tips from the public service GetNetWise will help ensure your computer's online security.

  • Always use anti-virus software. Keep the software up to date. More than 500 new viruses are discovered each month. You are not just protecting yourself when using virus software, but also others with whom you communicate. Learn more about virus protection.

  • Always use a firewall. A firewall is an "internal lock" for information on your computer. Many computer operating systems already have firewalls installed; you just have to turn them on. There are many other firewalls available to download or buy that help you secure your computer. Learn more about firewalls.

  • Learn the risks and rules associated with sharing files or your Internet connection. You can be exposed to danger via e-mail, file-sharing, a broadband connection or a Wi-Fi connection. Learn more about sharing.

  • Disconnect from the Internet when idle. If you are not using your Internet connection, turn it off. No one can attack your computer when it is not connected to the Internet. This is especially important if you have a high-speed connection.

  • Be in control of your software. The software and operating system on your computer have many security features, including many you may not use. Learn how to automatically update your operating systems with security patches, to activate firewalls and to turn off any extraneous options that leave your computer vulnerable. Learn more about software and operating system security.

  • Use tools to enhance your protection. Learn about tools that can help protect you from viruses and hackers.

  • Take action immediately. If you think you have been hacked or infected by a virus, contact your ISP. Learn more about viruses and hacking.

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Children Online

The best way to protect your kids while they are online is to go online with them. When this is not possible, make sure you know the sites your kids are visiting and which sites are appropriate. Filtering software and parental control tools within certain browsers help prevent children from accessing inappropriate sites.

Children's Safety Tips
  • Make sure your children know they should never give out personal information on the Internet unless they are being supervised by you or another responsible adult. This personal information includes your child's name, address, phone number and the name of his or her school.

  • Look for a privacy policy on the Web site to find out how they treat information that has been gathered from children. BBBOnLine® has a Kid's Privacy Seal that quickly identifies those companies that are committed to protecting children's privacy.

  • Teach your children to look for privacy policies on sites.

Learn more about the BBBOnLine Kid's Privacy Seal.
Learn more about how to read a privacy statement.

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