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Protecting Your Online Identity  

Recently in the news, we heard that 13 politicians and celebrities had their personal information hacked from their computer and posted on an online website. While some of the information was false, the credit reporting agency Equifax was able to confirm that in at least 4 cases the information posted was accurate. “This should give all consumers pause,” states Jana Castanon spokesperson for Apprisen. “I am sure that these individuals felt that they were being diligent with their online security measures, however, it looks like it wasn’t enough.” While hackers are getting more sophisticated in the ways they are obtaining information, there are still things that you can do to make sure your information is as protected as it can be.

  • Install anti-virus, anti-spyware and firewall protection, and keep them up to date.
  •  Don't open e-mails from strangers. Malware can be hidden in embedded attachments and graphics files. 
  • Don't open attachments unless you know who sent them and what they contain.
  • Don't click on pop-ups. Configure Windows or your Web browser to block them.
  • Don't provide your credit card number online unless you are making a purchase from a Web site you trust. Reputable sites will always direct you to a secure page with an URL starting with https:// whenever you actually make purchases or are asked to provide confidential information. The "s" is important. It indicates that you are on a secure web page.
  • Use strong passwords: at least six characters, including at least one symbol and number, and no reference to your name or other personal information. Use a different password for every site that requires one, and change passwords regularly.
  • Store your passwords in an online password manager. 
  • Never send a user name, password or other confidential information via e-mail, even if you think it is coming from a reliable source.
  • Consider turning off your computer when you're not using it or at least putting it in standby mode.
  • Don't keep passwords, tax returns and other financial information on your hard drive.

Don’t be complacent when it comes to protecting your online identity. “So often, when we receive a bank or credit card statement we skim over it and don’t really pay attention to the transactions,” continues Castanon. “Take the time to verify that everything is correct.” Apprisen also suggests that you check your credit report once a year for accuracy. There could possibly be accounts on it that you don’t know about.  You are entitled to one free report from each of the three credit agencies by going to     


Apprisen, a national nonprofit credit counseling agency, has been helping consumers manage their finances and get out of debt for over 55 years. Certified counselors provide money management and debt counseling, HUD-approved housing counseling, and financial education. Services are provided in 10 states through local offices and nationally by phone or via the Internet. The oldest nonprofit credit counseling organization in the country, Apprisen was formerly known in its local communities as Consumer Credit Counseling Service (CCCS). Accredited by the Council on Accreditation (COA), CCCS is a member of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC), the Better Business Bureau (BBB), and AICCCA. Information is available 24/7. Call 800-355-2227 or visit the website, You can "like us" on Facebook at and follow us on Twitter at

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