BBB issues warning to protect passwords

The Better Business Bureau wants to remind people about the importance of protecting their passwords to sensitive information.

The BBB says reports of a recent massive data breach are a timely reminder use strong passwords, use different ones on different accounts and avoid sharing sensitive data.

Reports this week indicated hackers recently accessed one billion passwords through a wide variety of websites and obtained sensitive data. None of the compromised websites was identified.

"Reports of stolen passwords are a common and worrisome occurrence," said Michelle L. Corey, BBB President & CEO. "Consumers need to be vigilant in protecting their accounts by using strong passwords and not sharing them with anyone."

Experts say people should avoid using the same password for all accounts. In addition, passwords should not use current addresses, dates of birth or other information that could be used by thieves to commit identity theft. Strong passwords include a variety of lower and upper case letters, numbers and symbols.

More BBB tips for securing your personal information:

  • Never reply to unsolicited emails. If the message includes a link within it, never click it. Many schemers use this as a way to spread a viral attack on your computer.

  • Do not give personal or financial information to anyone who contacts you via email. Your bank, the IRS or a law enforcement agency will not contact you by email. They will send you a letter.

  • Spread the word. Discuss phishing scams with all family members who have email addresses. Young people may be computer savvy, but not scam savvy. Older adults often are targeted by scammers, too.

  • Transmitted information should be encrypted. When sending personal information like addresses, credit card numbers and Social Security numbers over the Internet, make sure the website is fully encrypted and the network is secure. Look for https (the "s" stands for secure) at the beginning of the URL address.

  • Know the red flags. Poor grammar or misspelled words are red flags that the email is probably a scam. Most importantly, never wire money based on instructions in one of these suspicious emails. Scammers prey on those who think they need to wire money to have a situation resolved.

  • Protect your computer. Keep your antivirus software up to date and run it regularly.

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