(Editor’s Note: Unfortunately, I ran out of time trying to finish a column I’ve been working on the past couple of weeks. Therefore, I’m lending my space this week to Better Business Bureau Regional Director Kelly Trevino.)

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Data Privacy Day was held recently. It was a day dedicated to educating people about protecting their privacy and personal data online. But in this day and age, is online crime still something to worry about? According to the 2017 Internet Crime Report, the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) received over 300,000 complaints related to online crime… that’s an average of over 800 complaints each day! They also reported $1.42 billion in victim losses in 2017 alone. Statistics from the report also revealed that out of the top ten states with the most victims, Texas was ranked fourth. It’s no secret that internet usage is no longer optional, but that doesn’t mean you have to be left vulnerable to hackers and scammers. Better Business Bureau recommends these tips to help consumers protect themselves from cybercrime:

• Update software on your devices. While you may want to ignore them, the updates on your phone and computer are important for keeping security up-to-date and removing threats from your software.

• Keep personal information safe. Don’t reveal personal or financial information over email, and make sure to check the security of a website before entering sensitive information online.

• Share with care. What you post can never really be unposted, so think before you link. Consider how family, friends, or employers may perceive your posts and photos.

• Own your online presence. It’s okay to limit how much information you share online and with whom. It’s best to adjust privacy settings to match your personal comfort level.

• Back it up. Data loss is common, thanks to theft, viruses, computer malfunction, or even simple user error. Make copies of all your digital data—important photos, videos, and documents—and keep the copies in a safe location.

• Set strong passwords. Strong passwords (typically a sentence that is at least 12 characters long) can help keep you protected from malware and viruses.

• When in doubt, throw it out. Personal information is often stolen through the links in suspicious emails sent to you by cybercriminals. Don’t let curiosity get the best of you; delete the email and avoid clicking links in any suspicious emails from unknown senders.

• Stay secure. Look for the “s” at the end of the https in a web address. It stands for “secure”, and means you’re browsing or shopping on a safe site.

• Understand virtual currency. If you’re going to use or invest in virtual or cryptocurrency, it is vital that you have a complete understanding of its concepts. Visit bbb.org/crypto to learn more.

• Shop smart. If you’re trying out a new website when online shopping, read consumer reviews at bbb.org first to see what kind of experiences others have had. When shopping online, always use safe payment options, such as credit cards.

For more information about internet safety, visit bbb.org.

Trevino is the regional director for the Corpus Christi/Victoria area of Better Business Bureau.

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