MEMBER EDUCATION

Account Authentication & Online Banking

Click below to download our Account Authentication and Online Banking brochure.

Account Authentication and Online Banking [PDF]

 


Credit Reports & Credit Scores

Click below to download this helpful brochure on credit reports.


Don't Want Your Email Address "Harvested"

  1. Consider "masking" your email address.
    "johndoe@myisp.com" could be masked as "johndoe@spamaway.myisp.com"
     
  2. Keep your private email address private:
    • Use a separate screen name for online chatting.
    • Consider creating "disposable email addresses" for public postings in newsgroups or on websites, or for online purchases.
    • Consider using one email account for personal correspondence and another for public use.
       
  3. Use a unique email address, containing both letters and numbers.

FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION FOR THE CONSUMER TOLL-FREE 1-877-FTC-HELP WWW.FTC.GOV

The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop and avoid them. To file a complaint or to get free information on consumer issues, visit www.ftc.gov or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.


Detect, Protect, Dis-infect: Consumers Online Face Wide Choices in Security Products

With new threats to computer security and data integrity a regular feature of the evening news, a panoply of products that promise to detect, protect, and dis-infect are being marketed to consumers. Intrusion detection systems, firewalls and anti-virus software are critical to online security, but the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation's consumer protection agency, says computer users — from grade school kids to grandparents — need to know exactly why they need online security products and what they're buying.

Why the Need
Computers "talk” to each other over the Internet by sending data through their communications ports. If a port is open, it "listens” for communications from the Internet. A computer has thousands of ports: which ones are open depends on the software the computer is running. Hackers can "eavesdrop” or scan the ports to determine which are open and vulnerable to unauthorized access.

Detection
An intrusion detection system (IDS) monitors incoming Internet traffic, much like a security camera "watches” your front door to see who might be trying to come in. When the IDS detects a suspicious pattern, it sends an alert (and creates a record) that an intruder may be trying to break in to your computer. Some IDS alerts — but not all — show a pop-up message on your screen. An IDS alone cannot prevent an unauthorized entry into your computer; only a firewall can do that.

Protection
Firewalls block hackers' access to your computer by creating a barrier — like a wall — between your ports and the Internet that allows you to control the data that comes and goes through your ports. Your firewall protects your ports even if you don't have an IDS. Sometimes a firewall is bundled with an IDS. If not, and if you want an IDS, be sure it's compatible with your firewall.

Dis-infection
Anti-virus software detects and deletes viruses that are in your computer. Viruses often attach themselves to your computer through email attachments and floppy disks. That means a firewall can't catch them. Similarly, an IDS won't alert you when a virus is attacking your computer. Look for antivirus software that recognizes current viruses, as well as older ones; that can effectively reverse the damage; and that updates automatically.

Federal Trade Commission - Bureau of Consumer Protection - Offi ce of Consumer and Business Education The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint or to get free information on consumer issues, visit www.ftc.gov or call toll-free, 1-877- FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.


FICO Scores and Your Credit Rating

Click to download our recent FICO information to learn how it effects your Credit Rating.

FICO Scores and Your Credit Rating [PDF]


FTC Names Its Dirty Dozen: 12 Scams Most Likely To Arrive Via Bulk Email

Email boxes are filling up with more offers for business opportunities than any other kind of unsolicited commercial email. That's a problem, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), because many of these offers are scams.

In response to requests from consumers, the FTC asked email users to forward their unsolicited commercial email to the agency for an inside look at the bulk email business. FTC staff found that more often than not, bulk email offers appeared to be fraudulent, and if pursued, could have ripped-off unsuspecting consumers to the tune of billions of dollars.

The FTC has identified the 12 scams that are most likely to arrive in consumers' email boxes. The "dirty dozen" are:

1. Business opportunities
These business opportunities make it sound easy to start a business that will bring lots of income without much work or cash outlay. The solicitations trumpet unbelievable earnings claims of $140 a day, $1,000 a day, or more, and claim that the business doesn't involve selling, meetings, or personal contact with others, or that someone else will do all the work. Many business opportunity solicitations claim to offer a way to make money in an Internet-related business. Short on details but long on promises, these messages usually offer a telephone number to call for more information. In many cases, you'll be told to leave your name and telephone number so that a salesperson can call you back with the sales pitch.
The scam: Many of these are illegal pyramid schemes masquerading as legitimate opportunities to earn money.

2. Bulk email
Bulk email solicitations offer to sell you lists of email addresses, by the millions, to which you can send your own bulk solicitations. Some offer software that automates the sending of email messages to thousands or millions of recipients. Others offer the service of sending bulk email solicitations on your behalf. Some of these offers say, or imply, that you can make a lot of money using this marketing method.

The problem: Sending bulk email violates the terms of service of most Internet service providers. If you use one of the automated email programs, your ISP may shut you down. In addition, inserting a false return address into your solicitations, as some of the automated programs allow you to do, may land you in legal hot water with the owner of the address's domain name. Several states have laws regulating the sending of unsolicited commercial email, which you may unwittingly violate by sending bulk email. Few legitimate businesses, if any, engage in bulk email marketing for fear of offending potential customers.

3. Chain letters
You're asked to send a small amount of money ($5 to $20) to each of four or five names on a list, replace one of the names on the list with your own, and then forward the revised message via bulk email. The letter may claim that the scheme is legal, that it's been reviewed or approved by the government; or it may refer to sections of U.S. law that legitimize the scheme. Don't believe it.

The scam: Chain letters — traditional or high-tech — are almost always illegal, and nearly all of the people who participate in them lose their money. The fact that a "product" such as a report on how to make money fast, a mailing list, or a recipe may be changing hands in the transaction does not change the legality of these schemes.

4. Work-at-home schemes
Envelope-stuffing solicitations promise steady income for minimal labor — for example, you'll earn $2 each time you fold a brochure and seal it in an envelope. Craft assembly work schemes often require an investment of hundreds of dollars in equipment or supplies, and many hours of your time producing goods for a company that has promised to buy them.

The scam: You'll pay a small fee to get started in the envelope-stuffing business. Then, you'll learn that the email sender never had real employment to offer. Instead, you'll get instructions on how to send the same envelope-stuffing ad in your own bulk emailings. If you earn any money, it will be from others who fall for the scheme you're perpetuating. And after spending the money and putting in the time on the craft assembly work, you are likely to find promoters who refuse to pay you, claiming that your work isn't up to their "quality standards."

5. Health and diet scams
Pills that let you lose weight without exercising or changing your diet, herbal formulas that liquefy your fat cells so that they are absorbed by your body, and cures for impotence and hair loss are among the scams flooding email boxes.

The scam: These gimmicks don't work. The fact is that successful weight loss requires a reduction in calories and an increase in physical activity. Beware of case histories from "cured" consumers claiming amazing results; testimonials from "famous" medical experts you've never heard of; claims that the product is available from only one source or for a limited time; and ads that use phrases like "scientific breakthrough," "miraculous cure," "exclusive product," "secret formula," and "ancient ingredient."

6. Effortless income
The trendiest get-rich-quick schemes offer unlimited profits exchanging money on world currency markets; newsletters describing a variety of easy-money opportunities; the perfect sales letter; and the secret to making $4,000 in one day.

The scam: If these systems worked, wouldn't everyone be using them? The thought of easy money may be appealing, but success generally requires hard work.

7. Free goods
Some email messages offer valuable goods — for example, computers, other electronic items, and long-distance phone cards — for free. You're asked to pay a fee to join a club, then told that to earn the offered goods, you have to bring in a certain number of participants. You're paying for the right to earn income by recruiting other participants, but your payoff is in goods, not money.

The scam: Most of these messages are covering up pyramid schemes, operations that inevitably collapse. Almost all of the payoff goes to the promoters and little or none to consumers who pay to participate.

8. Investment opportunities
Investment schemes promise outrageously high rates of return with no risk. One version seeks investors to help form an offshore bank. Others are vague about the nature of the investment, stressing the rates of return. Many are Ponzi schemes, in which early investors are paid off with money contributed by later investors. This makes the early investors believe that the system actually works, and encourages them to invest even more.

Promoters of fraudulent investments often operate a particular scam for a short time, quickly spend the money they take in, then close down before they can be detected. Often, they reopen under another name, selling another investment scam. In their sales pitch, they'll say that they have high-level financial connections; that they're privy to inside information; that they'll guarantee the investment; or that they'll buy back the investment after a certain time. To close the deal, they often serve up phony statistics, misrepresent the significance of a current event, or stress the unique quality of their offering— anything to deter you from verifying their story.

The scam: Ponzi schemes eventually collapse because there isn't enough money coming in to continue simulating earnings. Other schemes are a good investment for the promoters, but no for participants.

9. Cable descrambler kits
For a small sum of money, you can buy a kit to assemble a cable descrambler that supposedly allows you to receive cable television transmissions without paying any subscription fee.

The scam: The device that you build probably won't work. Most of the cable TV systems in the U.S. use technology that these devices can't crack. What's more, even if it worked, stealing service from a cable television company is illegal.

10. Guaranteed loans or credit, on easy terms
Some email messages offer home-equity loans that don't require equity in your home, as well as solicitations for guaranteed, unsecured credit cards, regardless of your credit history. Usually, these are said to be offered by offshore banks. Sometimes they are combined with pyramid schemes, which offer you an opportunity to make money by attracting new participants to the scheme.

The scams: The home equity loans turn out to be useless lists of lenders who will turn you down if you don't meet their qualifications. The promised credit cards never come through, and the pyramid money-making schemes always collapse.


FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION
FOR THE CONSUMER
1-877-FTC-HELP
WWW.FTC.GOV
July 1998

11. Credit repair
Credit repair scams offer to erase accurate negative information from your credit file so you can qualify for a credit card, auto loan, home mortgage, or a job.

The scam: The scam artists who promote these services can't deliver. Only time, a deliberate effort, and a personal debt repayment plan will improve your credit. The companies that advertise credit repair services appeal to consumers with poor credit histories. Not only can't they provide you with a clean credit record, but they also may be encouraging you to violate federal law. If you follow their advice by lying on a loan or credit application, misrepresenting your Social Security number, or getting an Employer Identification Number from the Internal Revenue Service under false pretenses, you will be committing fraud.

12. Vacation prize promotions
Electronic certificates congratulating you on "winning" a fabulous vacation for a very attractive price are among the scams arriving in your email. Some say you have been "specially selected" for this opportunity.

The scam: Most unsolicited commercial email goes to thousands or millions of recipients at a time. Often, the cruise ship you're booked on may look more like a tug boat. The hotel accommodations likely are shabby, and you may be required to pay more for an upgrade. Scheduling the vacation at the time you want it also may require an additional fee.


The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint or to get free information on consumer issues, call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP, or use the complaint form at www.ftc.gov. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.


Guarding Against E-mail and Internet Fraud

Click below to download this educational brochure in a PDF format.
 


Going Shopping? Go Global! - A Guide for E-Consumers

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How to Be the Class 'Value-dictorian'

‘Tis the season for exams, commencements, and a renewed focus on the future. But when it comes to managing finances, everyone has the potential to be a value-dictorian. The Federal Trade Commission, the nation’s consumer protection agency, suggests that students and grads tap into these 10 simple tips to make the most of their money:

  1. Consider the National Do Not Call Registry. As hard as it may be for your parents to believe, there may be times when you don’t want to be on the phone — especially when the caller is a stranger trying to sell you something. Visit donotcall.gov and register your phone number with the National Do Not Call Registry.
     
  2. Stay Away from “Guarantees” to Get Scholarships. Reputable groups don’t charge money for information about scholarships. Steer clear of anyone “guaranteeing” you financial aid for college or vocational school — especially if they insist you pay them for the information first.
     
  3. Don’t Buy Bogus Weight Loss Products. Good health isn’t about a number on a scale. It’s about cultivating a positive attitude, enjoying a variety of foods, and staying fit and active. Take a pass on any product that promises easy weight loss; instead, focus on healthy habits that will last a lifetime.
     
  4. Keep Your Personal Information To Yourself. In the past five years, more than 27 million Americans have been victims of identity theft, including many students. Protect your passwords, guard your credit card number, shred sensitive paperwork, and don’t leave your mail lying around where it might tempt a potential identity thief.
     
  5. Understand Credit. Credit is so much more than just a plastic card. It’s your financial future. Before you sign on the dotted line, make sure you “speak credit.” And remember that “permanent record” your teachers always warned you about? It’s real — and it’s called a credit report. Late payments now will come back to haunt you when you try to buy a car, get an apartment, or even land a job. Once you’ve established credit, get a free copy of your credit report once a year by visiting www.annualcreditreport.com.
     
  6. Practice P2P File Sharing With Care, If At All. Peer-to-peer file sharing can open the door to unwanted content, spyware, and viruses. If you decide to use file-sharing software, install it carefully. Otherwise, you might give strangers access not just to the files you intended to share, but also to other information on your hard drive, like email and personal documents. Remember that sharing copyrighted music or other entertainment via P2P can land you in legal hot water.
     
  7. Travel Scams Make Busts Out of Spring Breaks. Who doesn’t dream of spending spring break in a sunnier climate? Be aware that shady pitch people target students who are looking for low-cost vacations. Before you show up at the airport with your sunscreen, review the tour package carefully and investigate the operator.
     
  8. Phishing Scams Reel In Your Personal Information. We’ve all seen them — emails claiming to be from your bank or ISP asking you to “verify” your credit card or checking account number. It’s called phishing, so don’t take the bait. Never give out personal information in response to an email. When in doubt, check it out by calling the company directly.
     
  9. Some Employment Services are Scams. There are bona fide job placement services that can help launch you in the career of your dreams. And then there are bogus companies whose only business is scamming you out of your money. Before paying anything up front to someone offering to help you land a job, check out who you’re doing business with.
     
  10. Ask Questions. Do Your Homework. Speak Up. Before spending your hard-earned money, ask questions and do your homework. Ftc.gov is just one place to go for accurate consumer information. But if something goes wrong and you aren’t able to get satisfaction, speak up. Report fraud and deceptive practices to the FTC by filing a complaint online. It’s one way to Help End Rip-Offs — and be a HERO.

The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint or to get free information on consumer issues, visit ftc.gov or call toll-free,1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.
 


How to Protect Kids' Privacy Online

Click below to view these helpful tips.


Identity Theft And Your Social Security Number

Identity Theft And Your Social Security Number [PDF]


Instructions for Completing the ID Theft Affidavit

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ID Theft: What It's All About

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Identity Thieves Can Ruin Your Good Name

Identity theft: The act of stealing your good name to commit fraud. Here's how to guard against it:

Before revealing personal identifying information, find out how it will be used and if it will be shared with others. Ask if you have a choice about the use of your information: can you choose to have it kept confidential?

Pay attention to your billing cycles. Follow up with creditors if bills do not arrive on time.

Give your Social Security number only when absolutely necessary. Ask to use other types of identifiers when possible.

Minimize the identification information and the number of cards you carry to what you actually need. If your I.D. or credit cards are lost or stolen, notify the creditors by phone immediately, and call the credit bureaus to ask that a "fraud alert" be placed in your file.

Order a copy of your credit report from the three credit reporting agencies every year. Make sure it's accurate and includes only those activities you've authorized.

Keep items with personal information in a safe place; tear them up when you don't need them anymore. Make sure charge receipts, copies of credit applications, insurance forms, bank checks and statements, expired charge cards, and credit offers you get in the mail are disposed of appropriately.

A message from the Federal Trade Commission www.ftc.gov


How Not to Get Hooked by a 'Phishing' Scam

“We suspect an unauthorized transaction on your account.
To ensure that your account is not compromised,
please click the link below and confirm your identity.”
“During our regular verification of accounts, we couldn’t verify your information.
Please click here to update and verify your information.”


Have you received email with a similar message? It’s a scam called “phishing” — and it involves Internet fraudsters who send spam or pop-up messages to lure personal information (credit card numbers, bank account information, Social Security number, passwords, or other sensitive information) from unsuspecting victims.

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation’s consumer protection agency, phishers send an email or pop-up message that claims to be from a business or organization that you may deal with — for example, an Internet service provider (ISP), bank, online payment service, or even a government agency. The message may ask you to “update,” “validate,” or “confirm” your account information. Some phishing emails threaten a dire consequence if you don’t respond. The messages direct you to a website that looks just like a legitimate organization’s site. But it isn’t. It’s a bogus site whose sole purpose is to trick you into divulging your personal information so the operators can steal your identity and run up bills or commit crimes in your name.

The FTC suggests these tips to help you avoid getting hooked by a phishing scam:

• If you get an email or pop-up message that asks for personal or financial information, do not reply. And don’t click on the link in the message, either. Legitimate companies don’t ask for this information via email. If you are concerned about your account, contact the organization mentioned in the email using a telephone number you know to be genuine, or open a new Internet browser session and type in the company’s correct Web address yourself. In any case, don’t cut and paste the link from the message into your Internet browser — phishers can make links look like they go to one place, but that actually send you to a different site.

• Use anti-virus software and a firewall, and keep them up to date. Some phishing emails contain software that can harm your computer or track your activities on the Internet without your knowledge.
Anti-virus software and a firewall can protect you from inadvertently accepting such unwanted files. Anti-virus software scans incoming communications for troublesome files. Look for anti-virus software that recognizes current viruses as well as older ones; that can effectively reverse the damage; and that updates automatically.

A firewall helps make you invisible on the Internet and blocks all communications from unauthorized sources. It’s especially important to run a firewall if you have a broadband connection. Operating systems (like Windows or Linux) or browsers (like Internet Explorer or Netscape) also may offer free software “patches” to close holes in the system that hackers or phishers could exploit.

• Don’t email personal or financial information. Email is not a secure method of transmitting personal information. If you initiate a transaction and want to provide your personal or financial information through an organization’s website, look for indicators that the site is secure, like a lock icon on the browser’s status bar or a URL for a website that begins “https:” (the “s” stands for “secure”). Unfortunately, no indicator is foolproof; some phishers have forged security icons.

• Review credit card and bank account statements as soon as you receive them to check for unauthorized charges. If your statement is late by more than a couple of days, call your credit card company or bank to confirm your billing address and account balances.

• Be cautious about opening any attachment or downloading any files from emails you receive, regardless of who sent them. These files can contain viruses or other software that can weaken your computer’s security.

• Forward spam that is phishing for information to spam@uce.gov and to the company, bank, or organization impersonated in the phishing email. Most organizations have information on their websites about where to report problems.

• If you believe you’ve been scammed, file your complaint at ftc.gov, and then visit the FTC’s Identity Theft website at www.consumer.gov/idtheft. Victims of phishing can become victims of identity theft. While you can’t entirely control whether you will become a victim of identity theft, you can take some steps to minimize your risk. If an identity thief is opening credit accounts in your name, these new accounts are likely to show up on your credit report. You may catch an incident early if you order a free copy of your credit report periodically from any of the three major credit bureaus. See www.annualcreditreport.com for details on ordering a free annual credit report.

You can learn other ways to avoid email scams and deal with deceptive spam at ftc.gov/spam.

The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint or to get free information on consumer issues, visit ftc.gov or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.


Privacy: Tips for Protecting Your Personal Information

Every day you share personal information about yourself with others. It's so routine that you may not even realize you're doing it. You may write a check at the grocery store, charge tickets to a ball game, rent a car, mail your tax returns, buy a gift online, call home on your cell phone, schedule a doctor's appointment or apply for a credit card. Each transaction requires you to share personal information: your bank and credit card account numbers; your income; your Social Security number (SSN); or your name, address and phone numbers.It's important to find out what happens to the personal information you and your children provide to companies, marketers and government agencies. These organizations may use your information simply to process your order; to tell you about products, services, or promotions; or to share with others.

And then there are unscrupulous individuals, like identity thieves, who want your information to commit fraud. Identity theft — the fastest-growing white-collar crime in America — occurs when someone steals your personal identifying information, like your SSN, birth date or mother's maiden name, to open new charge accounts, order merchandise or borrow money. Consumers targeted by identity thieves usually don't know they've been victimized. But when the fraudsters fail to pay the bills or repay the loans, collection agencies begin pursuing the consumers to cover debts they didn't even know they had.The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) encourages you to make sure your transactions — online and off — are secure and your personal information is protected. The FTC offers these tips to help you manage your personal information wisely, and to help minimize its misuse.

  • Before you reveal any personally identifying information, find out how it will be used and whether it will be shared with others. Ask about company's privacy policy: Will you have a choice about the use of your information; can you choose to have it kept confidential?
  • Read the privacy policy on any website directed to children. Websites directed to children or that knowingly collect information from kids under 13 must post a notice of their information collection practices.
  • Put passwords on your all your accounts, including your credit card account, and your bank and phone accounts. Avoid using easily available information — like your mother's maiden name, your birth date, the last four digits of your SSN or your phone number — or obvious choices, like a series of consecutive numbers or your hometown football team. FOR THE CONSUMER1-877-FTC-HELPftc.govFEDERAL TRADE COMMISSIONJanuary 2002
  • Minimize the identification information and the number of cards you carry to what you'll actually need. Don't put all your identifying information in one holder in your purse, briefcase or backpack.
  • Keep items with personal information in a safe place. When you discard receipts, copies of credit applications, insurance forms, physician statements, bank checks and statements, expired charge cards, credit offers you get in the mail and mailing labels from magazines, tear or shred them. That will help thwart any identity thief who may pick through your trash or recycling bins to capture your personal information.
  • Consider ordering a copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit reporting agencies (CRAs) every year. Make sure it's accurate and includes only those activities you've authorized. CRAs can't charge you more than $8.50 for a copy and in some states, your credit report is free.
  • Use a secure browser when shopping online to guard the security of your transactions. When submitting your purchase information, look for the “lock” icon on the browser's status bar to be sure your information is secure during transmission.

For More Information
To learn more about more about privacy issues and how they affect your life and the decisions you may make in the marketplace, visit www.consumer.gov/ncpw.The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint or to get free information on consumer issues, visit ftc.gov or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.


Securing Your Wireless Network

Click below to download this helpful brochure.


Spyware

Many experienced Web users have learned how to recognize spyware, avoid it, and delete it. According to officials at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation’s consumer protection agency, all computer users should get wise to the signs that spyware has been installed on their machines, and then take the appropriate steps to delete it.

The clues that spyware is on a computer include:

  • a barrage of pop-up ads
  • a hijacked browser — that is, a browser that takes you to sites other than those you type into the address box
  • a sudden or repeated change in your computer’s Internet home page
  • new and unexpected toolbars
  • new and unexpected icons on the system tray at the bottom of your computer screen
  • keys that don’t work (for example, the “Tab” key that might not work when you try to move to the next field in a Web form)
  • random error messages
  • sluggish or downright slow performance when opening programs or saving files The good news is that consumers can take steps to lower their risk of spyware infections. Indeed, experts at the FTC and across the technology industry suggest that you:
  • Update your operating system and Web browser software. Your operating system (like Windows or Linux) may offer free software “patches” to close holes in the system that spyware could exploit.
  • Download free software only from sites you know and trust. It can be appealing to download free software like games, peer-to-peer file-sharing programs, customized toolbars, or other programs that may change or customize the functioning of your computer. Be aware, however, that some of these free software applications bundle other software, including spyware.
  • Don’t install any software without knowing exactly what it is. Take the time to read the end-user license agreement (EULA) before downloading any software. If the EULA is hard to find — or difficult to understand — think twice about installing the software.
  • Minimize “drive-by” downloads. Make sure your browser security setting is high enough to detect unauthorized downloads, for example, at least the “Medium” setting for Internet Explorer. Keep your browser updated.
  • Don’t click on any links within pop-up windows. If you do, you may install spyware on your computer. Instead, close pop-up windows by clicking on the “X” icon in the title bar. July 2005
  • Don’t click on links in spam that claim to offer anti-spyware software. Some software offered in spam actually installs spyware.
  • Install a personal firewall to stop uninvited users from accessing your computer. A firewall blocks unauthorized access to your computer and will alert you if spyware already on your computer is sending information out.



If you think your computer might have spyware on it, experts advise that you take three steps: Get an anti-spyware program from a vendor you know and trust. Set it to scan on a regular basis — at least once a week — and every time you start your computer, if possible. And, delete any software programs the anti-spyware program detects that you don’t want on your computer. For more information about protecting your computer and your personal information online, visit onguardonline.gov.

The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint or to get free information on consumer issues, visit ftc.gov or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.


Stop-Think-Click: 7 Practices for Safe Computing

Click below to download these helpful tips.


Tips To Safely Conduct Financial Transactions Over The Internet

Tips To Safely Conduct Financial Transactions Over The Internet [PDF]


NCUA - Your Insured Funds

NCUA - Your Insured Funds [PDF]


NCUA - Share Insurance And You

NCUA - Share Insurance And You [PDF]


Take Charge: Fighting Back Against Identity Theft

Click the link below to download this PDF document on Identity Theft:

Take Charge: Fighting Back Against Identity Theft [PDF Format]


To buy or not to Buy: Identity Theft Spawns New Products and Services to Help Minimize Risk

Click the link below to download the lastes FTC Facts for Consumers article.

To buy or not to Buy: Identity Theft Spawns New Products and Services to Help Minimize Risk [PDF Format]


Unsolicited Mail, Telemarketing, and Email: Where to Go To "Just Say No"

Download this document in a PDF format below.


You Have The Power To Stop ID Theft

You Have The Power To Stop ID Theft [PDF]



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