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Online Security

Is There Privacy on the Internet?

Technology now allows companies to collect information about you and possibly give that information to others. While the Internet is a tremendous resource for information, products and services, you should be sure to safeguard your privacy on-line by following these tips.

Keep Your Personal Information Private
Don't provide personal information- such as your address, telephone number, Social Security number or e-mail address-unless you know who's collecting the information, why they're collecting it and how they'll use it. If you have children, teach them to check with you before giving out any personal or family information on-line.

Look For a Company's On-Line Privacy Policy
Many companies post their privacy policy on their Web site. A company's privacy policy should disclose what information is being collected on the Web site and how that information is being used. Before you provide a company with personal information, check its privacy policy. If you can't find a policy, send an e-mail or written message to the Web site to ask about its policy and request that it be posted on the site.

Make Choices

Many companies give you a choice on their Web site as to whether and how your personal information is used. These companies give you the option to decline having personal information, such as your e-mail address, used or shared with other companies. Look for this as part of the company's privacy policy.

Safe Surfing on the Internet

Practical Advice from the FTC
The Federal Trade Commission provides some important points to keep in mind when you're using and exploring the World Wide Web.

Keep Private Information Private.
Don't disclose personal information unless you know who's collecting it, why, and how it's going to be used. And never disclose your password.

Get To Know On-line Merchants.
Be cautious of a company that claims to have a "secret connection" overseas or doesn't allow e-mail replies.

Question Out-of-This-World Claims.
Claims like "you can earn over $50,000 a month" and "lose weight without dieting" suggest a scam. Be wary of any company that makes a product or performance claim that's unlikely-or just plain hard to believe.

Make Sure It's Secure.
If you buy something on the Internet and need to give your credit card number, verify the on-line security or encryption before you do business.

Know Who's Who.
On-line, anyone can be anyone, anywhere. Because it's easy to fake e-mail addresses, be mindful of whom you're listening to or talking with before you give out personal information.
Watch those .exe Files. Secret programs may exist in files you download-especially .exe files, which are executable files like mini-programs. These files could ruin your hard drive, hijack your modem, or collect information about you without your knowledge. Install a virus protection program before you go on-line.

Filter for Fun.
Inexpensive "filtering" software programs help make sure your family members are protected from sites that may not be age- or interest-appropriate.

How to File a Complaint

You can file a complaint with the FTC by contacting the Consumer Response Center:

  • Telephone: Toll-free 877-382-4357 (877-FTC-HELP) or TDD 202-326-2502
  • Mail: Consumer Response Center, Federal Trade Commission, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20580
  • Internet: on-line complaint form found at

Shopping Safely On-line

The World Wide Web is an exciting tool that puts abundant information at your fingertips. With a click of the mouse, it lets you send flowers, buy airline tickets, book a vacation, and track or purchase stocks and mutual funds. This is great. But before you use what the Internet has to offer, be smart and make your on-line experience safe.

Think Privacy & Security
When exploring on-line, remember the privacy and security questions you should ask about a company:

  • What information does the company collect about me and is it secure?
  • How does it use that information and what is the benefit to me?
  • What choices do I have about its use of information about me?

Security on the Internet
Shopping on-line offers lots of benefits that you won't find shopping in a store or by mail. For example, the Internet is always open-seven days a week, 24 hours a day. Bargains can be numerous. And you can shop the world over right at home. Shopping on the Internet can also be safe. Keep in mind the following tips to help ensure that your on-line shopping experience is a safe one:

  • Use a secure browser. The browser that comes with your Internet access software should have industry-standard encryption.
  • Shop with companies you know. If you're not familiar with one, ask for a paper catalog or brochure to get a better idea of their merchandise and services.
  • Keep your password private. Never give it to anyone. Avoid using a telephone number, birth date, or a portion of your Social Security number. Instead, use a combination of numbers, letters, and symbols.
  • Pay by credit or charge card. Your transaction will be protected by the Fair Credit Billing Act, under which you have the right to dispute charges under certain circumstances and temporarily withhold payment while the creditor is investigating them.
  • Keep a record. Be sure to print a copy of your purchase order and confirmation number for your records.
  • Beware of offers made on Web sites. These are not considered to be genuine offers in writing and are not binding. The reason for this is that Web sites can be easily changed. An offer appearing one day may be gone the next, and you cannot prove what an offer was when you first saw it.
  • Be Forewarned - If you see an offer you're interested in, get the specifics in writing before taking advantage of it.


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