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October is national Cybersecurity Awareness Month. It is crucial for consumers to understand the importance of protecting their personal information to prevent falling victim to cybercrimes. Follow these tips to protect your personal information and be more awshutterstock_409344172are of the threats.

Be careful about the information you reveal on social media. Social media can be a great place for cyber criminals to learn a lot about you. Sharing information such as pet names, your mother’s maiden name, your place of birth, and other personal information can help thieves with figuring out passwords. Set privacy controls, use caution when accepting friend requests, and refrain from sharing information or access to information with people you do not know.

Be suspicious of unsolicited texts and emails you receive. Use caution when opening e mail attachments. E mail attachments (files attached to e mail messages) are a primary source of virus infection. It’s easy for a cybercriminal to disguise a link or attachment as something that looks harmless, but actually allows access to viruses or malware to your computer or smart phone that could lead to personal information being hacked. Use anti-virus software to scan the documents first to ensure they are safe for your computer.  Never open an attachment from someone you don’t know. If you know the sender but weren’t expecting an attachment, verify that the sender actually sent the attachment before you open it.

Be selective of when and how you connect to the Internet.  Limit your access to banking accounts and other sensitive personal information when using public Wi-Fi.  Public connections provide significantly less security and may give cybercriminals easy access to your internet traffic. Guard your personal information carefully. If a website asks for a credit card number, bank information, or other personal information, make sure you trust the website and that it uses secure http (https).

Switch up your passwords. Do not use the same password for all of your accounts and change your password routinely.  Choose strong passwords – stay away from common words and include uppercase & lowercase letters, numbers and characters. Avoid using easily guessed information such as your birthday, social security number, name, and username. When a website asks you to answer security questions, lie. Don’t answer these honestly. Remember your high school mascot can be searched.  Two-factor authentication is a good idea, but don’t be predictable.

Protect your computer. Don’t leave your computer in an unsecured area, or unattended and logged on, especially in public places. Protect your computer with an anti-virus software, and keep up with the updates. This will help protect your computer from being hacked by cyber criminals, which can lead to issues with viruses and theft of personal information. Only install add-ons from websites that you trust. Web browser add-ons allow webpages to display things like toolbars, stock tickers, video, and animation. However, add-ons can also install spyware or other malicious software. If a website asks you to install an add-on, make sure that you trust it before doing so.

Educate yourself on common internet threats & scams. Cyber criminals often attempt to obtain sensitive information by means of viruses, cyber scams, and other cyber threats. Here are a few to watch out for:

  1. Smishing or Vishing. In a Smishing (SMS and phishing) or Vishing (voice and phishing) scam, you receive a text message or an automated call that describes an issue with a financial account and requests personal details such as a Social Security number, bank account number, credit/debit card number. A phone number is typically left for the person to either call or text back to confirm their information. Your bank and credit card companies will never ask for this information. If you are unsure of whether or not it truly is your bank or credit card company contacting you about an issue, call the main number found on their website.
  2. Spyware & Malware. Have you ever seen the annoying ads that pop up when you are browsing a website, stating you should download Spyware or Malware or else your computer will be infected with viruses? It’s actually the opposite.  Spyware and Malware are software that disguise themselves as a virus protectant, but actually are a virus.  Spyware can access and transmit personal information to anyone, while monitoring computer users simultaneously. Malware can also access personal information, but can often cause the computer to crash so it will not work properly.
  3. Wire transfer scam. Have you ever inquired for an apartment listing and received an email back that instructed you to wire money to the person and get the key in the mail because they are out of the country or unavailable? Do not wire money to anyone you do not know.  Another common scam involves emails that appear to be from a friend, stating they are stranded somewhere and need money wired to them. Never wire money to anyone without contacting them to verify. It is very simple for cyber criminals to hack into email accounts and send these messages disguised as someone else.


If you have additional questions, contact the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation by calling our Consumer Hotline at (617) 973-8787, or toll-free in MA at (888) 283-3757, Monday through Friday, from 9 am-4:30 pm. Follow the Office on Facebook and Twitter, @Mass_Consumer. The Baker-Polito Administration’s Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation is committed to protecting consumers through consumer advocacy and education.


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