Basic online safety tips to protect you and your computer

  • Configure and use email filters to block spam.
  • Install and use a firewall, pop-up blocker and spyware detector.
  • Ensure that your virus definitions are up to date and run anti-virus and spyware detectors/cleaners regularly.
  • Learn how to configure your computer to keep all of these solutions working efficiently.
  • Change your password often and keep it in a safe place.
  • Don’t share the password with anyone.
  • Don’t open any attachments from anyone unless they are run through an anti-virus program.
  • Log off when done.
  • Don’t reply to spam, harassing or offensive email or forward chain email letters.
  • Use common sense and keep personal information personal.
  • Delete all unread emails from people you don’t know.
  • Don’t be caught by the spammers’ favorite trick, “Remember me?”
  • Don't give out information simply because it is requested. Countless web sites ask you to give them your full name, date of birth, address, phone number, email address, etc. when you might just want to search their catalogs or read messages on a discussion forum. Give as little information as possible, and if they insist on information that doesn't seem justified, leave to go elsewhere.
  • Watch what you "say" online. When you do participate online, be careful—only type what you would say to someone's face. If you wouldn't say it to a stranger standing next to you in an elevator, why in the world would you "say" it online?
  • Don't provide your credit card number or other identifying information as proof of age to access or subscribe to a web site run by any person or company with whom you are not personally familiar or that doesn't have an extremely good, widespread reputation. Check consumer advocacy resources before giving out your credit card number to anyone, just to be sure that your trust is justified.
  • Be very cautious about putting any pictures of yourself or your children online anywhere, or allowing anyone else (relatives, schools, dance academies, sports associations) to publish any photos. Some stalkers become obsessed because of an image. A random email address or screen name is simply much less attractive to most obsessive personalities than a photograph.

Social Networking Sites

  • Think about how different sites work before deciding to join a site. Some sites will allow only a defined community of users to access posted content; others allow anyone and everyone to view postings.
  • Think about keeping some control over the information you post. Consider restricting access to your page to a select group of people, for example, your friends from school, your club, your team, your community groups, or your family.
  • Keep your information to yourself. Don't post your full name, Social Security number, address, phone number, or bank and credit card account numbers — and don't post other people's information, either.
  • Post only information that you are comfortable with others seeing—and knowing—about you. Many people can see your page, including your parents, your teachers, the police, the college you might want to apply to next year, or the job you might want to apply for in five years.
  • Remember that once you post information online, you can't take it back. Even if you delete the information from a site, older versions exist on other people's computers.
  • Consider not posting your photo. It can be altered and broadcast in ways you may not be happy about. If you do post one, ask yourself whether it's one your mom would display in the living room.
  • Be wary if a new online friend wants to meet you in person. Before you decide to meet someone, do your research. Ask whether any of your friends know the person, and see what background you can dig up through online search engines. If you decide to meet them, be smart about it. Meet in a public place, during the day, with friends you trust. Tell an adult or a responsible sibling where you're going and when you expect to be back.

Identity Theft

Identity theft occurs when someone uses your name, address, Social Security number, bank or credit card account number, or other identifying information without your knowledge to commit fraud or other crimes.

How Thieves Can Steal Your Identity:

  • They steal wallets and purses containing your identification and bank cards
  • They steal your mail, including statements, pre-approved credit offers, new checks and tax information.
  • "Dumpster Diving" going through your trash at home or work.
  • "Shoulder Surfing" at the ATM machine to steal your PIN.
  • They scam you, often by email, posing as legitimate companies or government agencies.

Ways to Guard Against Identity Theft:

  • Do not leave checks or credit cards in an unattended vehicle or in any public place.
  • Invest in a shredder and shred all paperwork with personal information on it before placing it in the trash.
  • Do not give out personal information to anyone you may be unsure of or telephone solicitors.
  • Deposit outgoing mail into a post office collection box rather than leaving it in an unsecured mailbox.
  • Promptly remove any mail from your mailbox.
  • Place orders only with secure web sites.
  • Check your credit card and bank statements.

What to Do if You’re Victim of Identity Theft:

  • File a police report as soon as possible and obtain the report number for future reference.
  • Report the identity theft to the following three credit bureaus:
  1. Equifax - 1-800-525-6285
  2. Experian - 1-888-397-3742
  3. TransUnion - 1-800-680-7289
  • Report fraudulent use of your Social Security number by calling the Social Security Administration at 1-800-269-0271
  • Contact your financial institutions. Consider obtaining new account numbers and PIN Numbers.

More information about identity theft can be obtained by contacting the Illinois Attorney General’s Office.