Take steps to protect personal information

This week news about yet another security breach at a major retailer and a cyber-attack that led to some celebrities’ like Jennifer Lawrence private photographs being posted publicly online, consumers are justly concerned about the safety of their personal and financial information.

Companies and consumers alike can take steps to prevent fraud, identity theft and public dissemination of personal information. Attorney General Dustin McDaniel issued this consumer alert to inform consumers about how to keep sensitive data out of the wrong hands.

Unfortunately, consumers who have had their sensitive information stolen are at greater risk of identity theft, fraud and other scams like email “phishing.” McDaniel said consumers impacted by security breaches should be more diligent in review of bank statements and credit card bills and should be wary of unsolicited emails and phone calls in which the e-mailer or caller seeks additional personal information. Consumers can make their sensitive information more secure:

Personal information can be as valuable as cash, so think twice before providing Social Security, bank account or credit card numbers to someone. Make sure the individual can be trusted with the data before sharing it.

Use long and strong account passwords. Mix letters, numbers and special characters to create passwords that are at least 10 characters long. Avoid using the same passwords for multiple sites and don’t use passwords that contain names, birthdays or common words. Recognize that photos, videos, text messages and other data stored on a phone may be backed up elsewhere, on what's commonly known as a "cloud." Consumers should read their service provider's privacy policies to determine whether or not they want to back up their data to the "cloud."

If using the "cloud," implement two-step verification, which does not allow account or password changes to be made unless a consumer is notified through another means, such as a verification code sent via text message.

When shopping online, use a secure browser. These feature a “lock” icon in the status bar and a URL that begins with “https.” Use the latest security software, and make sure computers, smartphones and tablets are always running the newest software versions. Updated software versions often contain security patches that help protect against malware.

For more information about how to avoid identity theft and keep personal information safe, visit the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division website, www.GotYourBackArkansas.org, or call the Consumer Protection Division hotline, (800) 482-8982.

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