February 3, 2003
Sean Caine, 410-576-6357
GENERAL CURRAN OFFERS CONSUMERS ADVICE ON "INFORMATION SECURITY"
General J. Joseph Curran, Jr., has joined federal, state and local
organizations in spreading the word about the importance of information
security, the theme of National Consumer Protection Week, Feb.
General Curran, with Montgomery County State's Attorney Doug
Gansler, makes points about identity theft and information security
at press conference.
want people to be aware of the importance of safeguarding information
about themselves when using computers, making purchases, and carrying
out other everyday activities," said Attorney General Curran.
"Just as we lock doors to protect against physical theft, we
must get used to using firewalls, passwords and other precautions
to protect against data theft. "
dangers of not safeguarding computers and personal information include
intrusions onto privacy, viruses that can cripple computers and
networks, and thieves who steal personal information to drain bank
accounts or commit credit fraud.
General Curran offers these important tips:
for information about security on Web sites. A site should tell
you how your financial account numbers and other personal information
are safeguarded during transmission, and whether that information
is protected afterward if it is stored. Usually the information
should be encrypted (scrambled in a private code) so no one else
can read it. The site should also tell you what precautions it takes
to prevent outsiders from "hacking" into its customer
databases or employees from abusing the information.
anti-virus software on your computer, and update it regularly.
Dont open attachments to e-mails from strangers. Never forward
any e-mail warning about a new virus. It may be a hoax and could
be used to spread a virus.
harder-to-guess passwords. Use both letters and numbers. Avoid
common words; some hackers use programs that can try every word
in the dictionary. Dont use your personal information, your
login name or adjacent keys on the keyboard as passwords, and dont
share your passwords online or over the phone.
extra security precautions when you have broadband Internet access.
When youre connected to the Internet through broadband service,
you are more vulnerable to "hackers" why may try to get
financial and other personal information that is stored on your
computer. Use firewall software or hardware to prevent unauthorized
access to your computer.
disclose any information about yourself to strangers on the phone.
Many scams involve callers who say they represent your bank or credit
card issuer and need to "verify" your account information.
Others may pose as representatives of survey firms or government
agencies to get you to reveal your Social Security Number, date
of birth, mothers maiden name or other identifying information.
your wallet. Never carry your Social Security card, birth certificate
or passport unless necessary. Carry only the credit cards you plan
to use. Also, dont put your Social Security Number or phone
number on your checks.
sensitive trash. Tear up or shred items that have personal or
financial information, such as credit card pre-approvals, bank statements
and credit card receipts.
your financial records out of sight. Burglars are just as interested
in credit cards, bank accounts and investment statements as they
are in your jewelry and other valuables.
your mail. Unless your mailbox is secure, mail payments at the
post office and pick up new checks at your bank.
your credit reports once a year. If someone is misusing your
personal information to get credit, it will probably show up in
your credit reports before you get other clues. Maryland residents
are entitled to a free copy of their credit reports each year.
General Currans Web site offers the publications "Protecting
Your Privacy" and "Identity
Theft: What to Do If It Happens to You" at www.oag.state.md.us/consumer.
Consumers can find more information about how to shop safeline online,
protect computers from hackers, stop "spam" e-mail, protect
personal privacy, protect against identity theft, and protect children
when they are online at the National Consumer Protection Week Web
site at www.consumer.gov/ncpw.
Consumer Protection Week is sponsored by the National Association
of Attorneys General, the Federal Trade Commission, the U.S. Postal
Inspectors Service, the U.S. Postal Service, AARP, Better Business
Bureaus, the Consumer Federation of America, the National Consumers
League, and other organizations.