E-mail, the Internet, automated teller machines, computer banking, long distance carriers, even credit cards make our lives more efficient. However, as our lives become more integrated with technology, keeping our private information confidential becomes more difficult. Electronic transactions can leave you vulnerable to fraud and other crimes. Following a few simple tips can help your code from being cracked.

A Word on passwords

  Whether you are on the internet or an online banking program, you are often required to use a password. The worse passwords to use are the ones that come to mind fast-name, spouses names, maiden name, pets, children name, even street addresses, etc. The best passwords mix numbers with upper and lower case letters. A password that is not found in the dictionary is even better. There are programs that will try every word in the dictionary in an effort to crack your security.

  The weakest link in a security system is the human element. The fewer people who have access to your codes and passwords the better. Avoid breaks in security by

  • Changing passwords regularly.

  • Memorizing your password. If you have several set up a system of remembering them. If you do write down the password, keep it at home or hidden at work. Do not write your password on a post it note and stick it in your monitor or hard drive.,

  • Set up a special account or set aside a different computer at work for  temporary help and other unauthorized users.

  •  If you have the option of letting your computer or a web site remember a password for you, do not use it. Anyone who uses your machine will have automatic access to information that is password protected.


Shopping in Cyberspace

  Ordering merchandise from the Internet is the trend of the future. You can prevent problems before they occur.

  • Doing business with companies you know and trust. If you have not heard of the company before, research it or ask for a paper catalog before you decide to order electronically. Check with your stated consumer protection agency on whether the company is licensed or registered. Fraudulent companies can appear and disappear very quickly in cyberspace.

  • Understand the offer. Look carefully at the products or services the company is offering. Be sure you know what is being sold, the quality being specified, the total price, the delivery date, the return policy and cancellation policy, and all the terms of any guarantee

  • Use a secure browser  that will encrypt or scramble purchase information. If there is no encryption software consider calling the company's 800 number, faxing your order, or paying with a check.

  • Never give a bank account or credit card number or other personal information to anyone you do not know or have not checked out. And do not provide information that is not necessary to make a purchase. Even with partial information, con artist can make unauthorized charges or take money from your account. If you have an even choice between using your credit card and mailing cash, check, money order, use a credit card. You can always dispute fraudulent credit card charges but you can not get your cash back.

Using ATMs, Long Distance Phone Cards Services, and Credit cards

  Protect your personal identification number (PIN)

  • The PIN is one method used by banks and phone companied to protect your account from unauthorized access. A PIN is a confidential code issued to the cardholder to permit access to that account. Your PIN number should be memorized, secured and not given out to anyone, not even family members or bank employees. The fewer people who have access to your PIN the better. 

  • Never write your PIN on ATM or long distance calling cards. Do not wrote your PIN on a piece of paper and place it in your wallet. If your wallet and card are lost or stolen, someone will have everything they need to remove funds from your account, make unauthorized debit purchases, or run up your long distance bill. 

Protect Your Privacy and the Privacy of Others

  • Be aware of other waiting behind you. Position yourself in front of the ATM keyboard or phone to prevent anyone from observing your PIN. Be courteous while waiting at an ATM or pay phone by keeping a polite distance from the person ahead  of you. Allow the current user to finish before approaching the machine or phone.

Protecting Your ATM Cards

  • An ATM card should be treated as thought it were cash. Avoid providing card and account information to anyone over the telephone.

  • When making a cash withdrawal at an ATM, immediately remove the cash as soon as the machine releases it. Put the cash in your pocket and wait until you are in a secure location before counting it. Never use an ATM in an isolated area or where people are loitering.

  • Be sure to keep your receipt to record transactions and match them against monthly statements. Dishonest people can use your receipt to get your account number. Never leave the receipt at the site. 

Protect your Credit Cards

  • Only give your credit card account number to make sure a purchase or reservation you have initiated. Abs never give this information over a cellular phone. 

  • Never give your credit card to someone else to use on your behalf.

  • Watch your credit card after giving it to the store clerks to protect against extra imprints being made.

  • Destroy all carbons. Do not discard into the trash can at the purchase counter. Keep charge slips in a safe place.  

  • Protect your purse or wallet, especially when traveling or in crowded conditions.

  • Save all receipts and compare them to your monthly statement. Report any discrepancies immediately.

  • Keep a master list in a secure place at home with all account numbers and phone numbers for reporting lost or stolen cards. 

Lost or Stolen Cards

  • Always report lost or stolen cards to the issuing company immediately. This limits any unauthorized use of your card and permits the company to began the process of issuing a new card. 

 Crime can be random. But there are steps that limit your chances of becoming a victim. Being aware that the threat of a crime-and alert to what you can do to prevent it-will go a long way toward making your electronic transactions safe and private.

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