Thursday, March 4, 2010

Keeping your information safe online

The Internet is a unique environment where information can be accessed 24-hours-a-day. This means personal information has the potential of being used fraudulently, targeted for other criminal purposes, even while the computer is off and you are in the comfort and safety of your own home.

The Calgary Police Service would like to remind Calgarians to take precautions when posting personal information online, using e-mail accounts, shopping and conducting online banking.

Every year, millions of Canadians fall victim to online crimes. Education and prevention are key components to online safety.

The Calgary Police Service offers the following tips to allow you to be more web savvy when it comes to safety:
  • Set up Google alerts for your name. This may notify you when something is posted on the Internet using your name. (Go to, and enter in the email address you would like to receive alerts to, along with the information you would like alerts on. Other web alerts include and
  • Don't give out your personal information unless you first find out how it's going to be used and how it will be protected.
  • Type the site's name into a search engine: If you find unfavorable reviews posted, you may be better off doing business with a different seller.
  • Conduct a credit bureau report annually.
  • Be cautious about opening any attachments or downloading files from emails you receive. Don't open an email attachment — even if it looks like it's from a friend or co-worker — unless you are expecting it or know what it contains. If you send an email with an attached file, include a text message explaining what it is.
  • Use privacy settings to restrict who can access and post on your website and social networking pages. Use these settings to limit who can view online profile, photos, etc.
  • Do not publicly post your birth date (with the year), address or other identifying information that could be used by fraudsters or potential stalkers.
  • Once you post information online, you can't take it back. Even if the information is deleted from a site, older versions may exist on other people's computers and be circulated online.
  • Use different user names and passwords on each site you visit.
  • Trust your instincts. Most sites have links where users can immediately report abusive, suspicious or inappropriate online behavior, ensure you do this if you have concerns.
  • Be careful that any information used as password security questions should not be casual information shared with others.
  • Use passwords that have at least eight characters and include numbers or symbols. The longer the password, the tougher it is to crack.
    • 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.
    • Change your passwords regularly (at a minimum, every 90 days).
    • Most importantly, use a different login/password for each online account you access. If hackers have your info, they will try to use it on other websites such as online banking and email accounts
What to do in an e-mergency:
  • If you believe your computer has been compromised, immediately stop shopping, banking, and other online activities that involve user names, passwords, or other sensitive information.
  • If possible print a copy of questionable content such as e-mail, IM history, website page or profile from social networking site. This may be useful as evidence one day. This information may not be up for long, so ensure you print it off as soon as you see it.
  • Report concerns directly to the abuse departments for each website (for example,, etc.)
  • If someone has been using your accounts, or information, be sure to print copies to show police when reporting. This information may not be up for long, so ensure you print it off as soon as you see it.
  • Report fraud, hacking or a computer virus immediately. To fight computer criminals, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre needs to hear from you.
***Courtesy of Calgary Police Service

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