Banner: Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, Jr.
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For Immediate Release
February 3, 2003
Contact: Sean Caine, 410-576-6357


Attorney 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. 2-8.

Attorney General Curran makes points about information security at press conference.
Attorney General Curran, with Montgomery County State's Attorney Doug Gansler, makes points about identity theft and information security at press conference.

"We 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.’ "

The 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.

Attorney General Curran offers these important tips:

Look 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.

Use anti-virus software on your computer, and update it regularly. Don’t 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.

Use harder-to-guess passwords. Use both letters and numbers. Avoid common words; some hackers use programs that can try every word in the dictionary. Don’t use your personal information, your login name or adjacent keys on the keyboard as passwords, and don’t share your passwords online or over the phone.

Take extra security precautions when you have broadband Internet access. When you’re 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.

Don’t 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, mother’s maiden name or other identifying information.

Lighten your wallet. Never carry your Social Security card, birth certificate or passport unless necessary. Carry only the credit cards you plan to use. Also, don’t put your Social Security Number or phone number on your checks.

Shred 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.

Keep 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.

Safeguard your mail. Unless your mailbox is secure, mail payments at the post office and pick up new checks at your bank.

Check 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.

Attorney General Curran’s Web site offers the publications "Protecting Your Privacy" and "Identity Theft: What to Do If It Happens to You" at 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

National 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.



Attorney General of Maryland 1 (888) 743-0023 toll-free / TDD: (410) 576-6372
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