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Don't Get Hooked by a Phishing Expedition

A quick primer on keeping your data safe

Simple steps

Besides password protection, make sure you have an up-to-date antivirus program. There are some free programs out there, but this is one of those times when you get what you pay for. Take the plunge and buy some serious software from a reputable company, such as Symantec/Norton or McAfee. And make sure you keep it up-to-date. The crooks are always updating their malware.

Don't click that link

If you get an e-mail from a financial institution where you don't have an account asking you to update your security, don't let curiosity get the better of you. It's not a mistake. It's an attack.

Even if you get an unusual communication from a company you do business with, contact them before you open it. For example, if you use PayPal and get a note saying your account is on hold, or a note from eBay saying your account is being suspended, don't click on the link. Contact the company directly to see if the note is legitimate. Many firms have their own security sites, such as spoof@paypal.com. Forward the suspicious e-mail to them, and they'll tell you if it's bogus.

Even though you'd think everyone knows about the Nigeria e-mail scam, there are still plenty of people falling for it. When the former head of the bank of Nigeria offers to send you money to invest for him and asks for your banking info, or for a small security fee, just ignore it. Sadly, one security expert I spoke with told me that every year one or two people actually go to Nigeria, and wind up dead.

And if you access the Internet from a library or other public computer, never type in personal information or account numbers. You never know who has been putting programs on it that could be recording your keystrokes.

Being smart about smartphones

How do you protect the data that's on your smartphone? You may leave it out on your desk, or on a train seat or in the bin at airport security. And, of course, sometimes you just don't know where you've left it. There are several solutions.

The first thing you can do is password protect your device. That way, if someone does pick it up they cannot access your data. If your phone is truly lost or stolen, there are programs for both the iPhone and Android phones that will help you find your phone. In a worst case situation, there are also programs that will let you remotely wipe all the data that's on the phone.

Boomers have been a little slower than millennials to do online transactions. But we're catching up now. Fifty-five percent of us are doing online banking. Keeping track of your money, your investments and shopping is a wonderful convenience. By exercising a little caution, it can be a safe one, too.

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