Consumer Alerts

Correct Way to Dispose of Old Computers October 24, 2018

old_computer_recycleGetting rid of your old computer? You can ensure its hard drive doesn’t become a treasure chest for identity thieves. Use a program that overwrites or wipes the hard drive many times. Or remove the hard drive, and physically destroy it.

 

Understand Your Hard Drive

Computers often hold personal and financial information, including:

  • passwords
  • account numbers
  • license keys or registration numbers for software programs
  • addresses and phone numbers
  • medical and prescription information
  • tax returns
  • files created automatically by browsers and operating systems

When you save a file, especially a large one, it is scattered around the hard drive in bits and pieces. When you open a file, the hard drive gathers the bits and pieces and reconstructs them.

When you delete a file, the links to reconstruct the file disappear. But the bits and pieces of the deleted file stay on your computer until they’re overwritten, and they can be retrieved with a data recovery program. To remove data from a hard drive permanently, the hard drive needs to be wiped clean.

 

How to Clean a Hard Drive

Before you clean a hard drive, save the files you want to keep to:

  • a USB drive
  • a CDRom
  • an external hard drive
  • a new computer

Check your owner’s manual, the manufacturer’s website, or its customer support service for information on how to save data and transfer it to a new computer.

Utility programs to wipe a hard drive are available both online and in stores where computers are sold. These programs generally are inexpensive; some are available on the internet for free. These programs vary:

  • Some erase the entire disk, while others allow you to select files or folders to erase.
  • Some overwrite or wipe the hard drive many times, while others overwrite it only once.

Consider using a program that overwrites or wipes the hard drive many times; otherwise, the deleted information could be retrieved. Or remove the hard drive, and physically destroy it.

If you use your home or personal computer for business purposes, check with your employer about how to manage the information on your computer that’s business-related. The law requires businesses to follow data security and disposal requirements for certain information that’s related to customers.

 

How to Dispose of Your Computer

Recycle it.

Many computer manufacturers have programs to recycle computers and components. Check their websites or call their toll-free numbers for more information. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has information about electronic product recycling programs. Your local community may have a recycling program, too. Check with your county or local government, including the local landfill office for regulations.

Donate it.

Many organizations collect old computers and donate them to charities.

Resell it.

Some people and organizations buy old computers. Check online.

Remember, most computer equipment contains hazardous materials that don’t belong in a landfill. For example, many computers have heavy metals that can contaminate the earth. The EPA recommends that you check with your local health and sanitation agencies for ways to dispose of electronics safely.

This article and any information contained herein is intended for informational purposes only.  The publisher will not be responsible for errors or omissions or any damages, howsoever caused, that result from its use. 

Sources: Federal Trade Commission – Consumer Information

 

Protecting Yourself Online October 15, 2018

Though the internet has many advantages, it can also make users vulnerable to fraud, identity theft and other scams. According to a Norton Cybercrime Report, 143 million U.S. consumers were victims of cybercrime in 2017. The American Bankers Association recommends the following tips to keep you safe online:
  • membersloginKeep your computers and mobile devices up to date.  Having the latest security software, web browser, and operating system are the best defenses against viruses, malware, and other online threats. Turn on automatic updates so you receive the newest fixes as they become available.
  • Establish passwords. A strong password is at least eight characters in length and includes a mix of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters. 
  • Watch out for phishing scams. Phishing scams use fraudulent emails and websites to trick users into disclosing private account or login information. Do not click on links or open any attachments or pop-up screens from sources you are not familiar with. 
    • Forward phishing emails to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at spam@uce.gov – and to the company, bank, or organization impersonated in the email. 
  • Recognize and avoid bogus website links. Cybercriminals embed malicious links to download malware onto devices and/or/ route users to bogus websites. Hover over suspicious links to view the actual URL that you are being routed to. Fraudulent links are often disguised by simple changes in the URL. For example: www.ABC-Bank.com vs ABC_Bank.com
  • Keep personal information personal. Hackers can use social media profiles to figure out your passwords and answer those security questions in the password reset tools. Lock down your privacy settings and avoid posting things like birthdays, addresses, mother’s maiden name, etc.  Be wary of requests to connect from people you do not know.
  • Secure your internet connection. Always protect your home wireless network with a password. When connecting to public Wi-Fi networks, be cautious about what information you are sending over it. Consider using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) app to secure and encrypt your communications when connecting to a public Wi-Fi network. (See the Federal Trade Commission’s tips for selecting a VPN app.)
  • Shop safely. Before shopping online, make sure the website uses secure technology. When you are at the checkout screen, verify that the web address begins with https. Also, check to see if a tiny locked padlock symbol appears on the page.
  • Read the site’s privacy policies. Though long and complex, privacy policies tell you how the site protects the personal information it collects. If you don’t see or understand a site’s privacy policy, consider doing business elsewhere.

This article and any information contained herein is intended for informational purposes only.  The publisher will not be responsible for errors or omissions or any damages, howsoever caused, that result from its use. 

Sources: American Bankers Association

Online Dating Scams October 5, 2018

Infographic-online-dating-scams

Digital Spring Cleaning April 30, 2018

The National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) and Better Business Bureau (BBB) are encouraging all consumers to freshen up their online lives by conducting a thorough cleaning of their cyber clutter. These easy, actionable tips from NCSA and the BBB will help you stay cyber safe and protect your personal data and identity. 

  • KEEP A CLEAN MACHINE. Ensure all software on internet-connected devices – including PCs, smartphones and tablets – is up to date to reduce risk of infection from malware.
  • LOCK DOWN YOUR LOGIN. Your usernames and passphrase are not enough to protect key accounts like email, banking and social media. Begin your spring cleaning by fortifying your online accounts and enabling the strongest authentication tools available, such as biometrics, security keys or a unique one-time code through an app on your mobile device.
  • DECLUTTER YOUR MOBILE LIFE. Most of us have apps we no longer use and some that need updating. Delete unused apps and keep others current, including the operating system on your mobile devices.
  • DO A DIGITAL FILE PURGE. Perform a good, thorough review of your online files. Tend to digital records, PCs, phones and any device with storage just as you do for paper files. Get started by doing the following:
      • Clean up your email: Save only those emails you really need and unsubscribe to email you no longer need/want to receive.
      • Back it up: Copy important data to a secure cloud site or another computer/drive where it can be safely stored. Passphrase protect backup drives. Always back up your files before getting rid of a device, too.
  • OWN YOUR ONLINE PRESENCE. Review the privacy and security settings on websites you use to ensure they’re at your comfort level for sharing. It’s OK to limit how and with whom you share information. 
  • digital spring cleaning_girl cleaning computer

Here are some user-friendly tips to help with the safe disposal of electronically stored data

  • KNOW WHAT DEVICES TO DIGITALLY “SHRED.” Computers and mobile phones aren’t the only devices that capture and store sensitive, personal data. External hard drives and USBs, tape drives, embedded flash memory, wearables, networking equipment and office tools like copiers, printers and fax machines all contain valuable personal information.
  • CLEAR OUT STOCKPILES. If you have a stash of old hard drives or other devices – even if they’re in a locked storage area – information still exists and could be stolen. Don’t wait: wipe and/or destroy unneeded hard drives as soon as possible.
  • EMPTY YOUR TRASH OR RECYCLE BIN ON ALL DEVICES AND BE CERTAIN TO WIPE AND OVERWRITE. Simply deleting and emptying the trash isn’t enough to completely get rid of a file. Permanently delete old files using a program that deletes the data, “wipes” it from your device and overwrites it by putting random data in place of your information ‒ that then cannot be retrieved.
    • For devices like tape drives, remove any identifying information that may be written on labels before disposal, and use embedded flash memory or networking or office equipment to perform a full factory reset and verify that no potentially sensitive information still exists on the device.
  • DECIDE WHAT TO DO WITH THE DEVICE. Simply deleting and emptying the trash isn’t enough to completely get rid of a file. Permanently delete old files using a program that deletes the data, “wipes” it from your device and overwrites it by putting random data in place of your information ‒ that then cannot be retrieved.

 

Download a Digital Declutter Checklist

 

Charity Scam October 9, 2017

In the aftermath of natural disasters, many “charities” run by scam artists pop up to take advantage of Americans’ willingness to help others. Follow these steps to steer clear of crooks looking to make a quick dollar off of your generosity:

 

Avoid charities that seem to have sprung up overnight in response to a disaster. Instead, give to charities with a proven track record of helping natural disaster victims.

 

Make sure the charity you are donating to is legitimate. You can do this by checking out websites like Charity Navigator, Charity Watch, or GuideStar. There you can find information like tax records that explain what the charity does, how long they’ve been doing it, and who their head employees are.

 

Pay by credit or debit card. That way, if the charity turns out to be a scam, you can dispute the charge.

 

If you receive a solicitation from a group fundraising on behalf of another organization, be sure to ask what percentage of a donation is kept by the fundraising organization. If the caller is unable or unwilling to provide that information, or if the fee seems unusually high, it could be a scam.

 

(Source:  www.fraud.org)

 

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