NEW YORK, NY – A host of New York State government agencies today announced important tips consumers and businesses can follow to protect their online privacy and information from unscrupulous scammers. These helpful steps and reminders from the Department of State, Office of Information Technology Services, Department of Taxation and Finance, Department of Financial Services and the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services help commemorate National Data Privacy Day today, which aims to raise awareness of privacy and data protection issues among consumers, organizations, and government officials.
“Letting people know they have to be vigilant and protect themselves is an important step towards minimizing criminal opportunities,” said Rossana Rosado, New York Secretary of State. “Although today is National Data Privacy Day, we remind New Yorkers to remain vigilant all year-round as scammers do not take any days off. I commend the Governor’s efforts to combat cyber-crime and protect our information and money.”
New York ranked fourth-highest in the nation in the number of internet crimes reported and cost State consumers over $58 million in losses, according to the latest Internet Crime Report put forth by the U.S. Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation.
As part of his State of the State, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo recently unveiled a comprehensive package to better protect New Yorkers from the ever-growing threat of cyber-attacks. The package includes the strengthening and modernization of cybercrime and identity theft laws, as well as the creation of a new Cyber Incident Response Team to provide cybersecurity support to state entities, local governments, critical infrastructure and schools.
The following tips can help keep your personal data safe:
- Be wary of aggressive phone scams – Be sure to only give personal information—including social security numbers—to someone you trust.
- Avoid phishing scams – Don’t be fooled by legitimate-looking e-mails even if they contain logos, pictures, copyrights or names of legitimate businesses. Do not click on links in unsolicited messages which can connect to suspicious websites.
- Protect your computer and mobile devices– Ensure that your devices are secure when accessing your financial accounts online or making online purchases by looking for “https,” with an “s” after the “http,” in the website address. Be savvy when using mobile applications. Many apps don’t need geo-location or sharing features enabled to work properly. Install, update and use anti-virus and anti-spyware software.
- Use strong passwords – Use a combination of upper- and lower-case letters as well as numbers and symbols when creating a new password. Don’t use your name, birthdate, or common words. Use a different password for each of your accounts.
- Use secure wireless networks – Always encrypt your wireless network with a strong password. Never access your personal accounts on a public Wi-Fi network. Public Wi-Fi is not secure and leaves you vulnerable to cyber criminals.
- Review bank accounts and statements – Check your credit card and banking statements regularly to spot any suspicious activity.
- Review credit reports annually – Review each of your credit reports annually to spot identity theft before it’s too late here.
- Think before you post – The more information and photos you share via social media, including current and past addresses, or names of relatives, can provide scammers possible answers to your security questions or otherwise help them access your accounts. Further, set your privacy and security settings on social media sites and your devices to your comfort level of sharing.
- Report Phishing Scams – Report suspected Phishing scams to email@example.com, to the Division of Consumer Protection, and to the institution or company targeted in the Phishing e-mail. You also may report Phishing e-mails to the Anti -Phishing Working Group at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Every individual plays a crucial role in ensuring their personal data remains secure online,” said Margaret Miller, New York State Chief Information Officer. “Data Privacy day is about educating New Yorkers on the importance of safeguarding information shared on online and creating awareness of what can happen when privacy is violated online. Safeguarding your information starts with being aware of the information you share, and the precautions every person needs to take to reduce the risk of that data being compromised.”
“Protecting the confidential tax information we’re entrusted with and preventing tax fraud are top priorities at the NYS Tax Department,” said Acting Commissioner of Taxation and Finance Nonie Manion. “We use cutting edge data analytics to evaluate each tax return to identify suspicious returns and dedicated teams to halt tax refund schemes devised by identity thieves. We laud Governor Cuomo’s effort to bolster deterrence by increasing the penalties for cybercrimes.”
“New York is leading the nation in taking decisive action to ensure that consumers’ sensitive personal data is protected and appropriately managed by the financial services companies they trust, including DFS’s groundbreaking cybersecurity regulation” said Financial Services Superintendent Maria T. Vullo. “The steps outlined today are essential tools that empower all New Yorkers to take action to help keep their personal information out of the hands and computers of criminals.”
“Cyber-attacks on individuals, businesses and government agencies have increased exponentially in recent years, so it is vitally important that New Yorkers safeguard their personal information and remain alert to potential scammers,” said John P. Melville, Commissioner, New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services. “Do not open suspicious links or documents, or provide detailed personal information such as your social security number to unsolicited vendors without verifying the nature of the message with the sender.”
“Taking steps to protect your data is increasingly important as we become far more digitally connected,” Steve Spano, President and Chief Operating Officer of the Center for Internet Security (CIS). “A global interconnected world driven by such things as social media, personal devices, and the Internet of Things is connecting people and businesses in new and innovative ways. Information is a common currency, which presents tremendous opportunities for people, governments, and businesses, but it also can present significant risk given the growing vulnerabilities and cyber threats. The urgency to communicate should be matched with a greater urgency to do so using security best practices. They are not mutually exclusive.”
For more information on security breaches and avoiding identity theft visit the Division of Consumer Protection here. Consumers may also contact the Division’s hotline at (800) 697-1220. The Consumer Assistance Hotline is open Monday to Friday, excluding Federal Holidays, 8:30am to 4:30pm. You can also follow the Division of Consumer Protection on social media on Twitter (@NYSConsumer) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/nysconsumer).
About The Author: John Colascione is Chief Executive Officer of Searchen Networks Inc. and Internet Advertising Inc. He specializes in Website Monetization, authored a ‘how to’ book called ‘‘Mastering Your Website’, and is a key player in several Internet related businesses through his search engine strategy company Searchen Networks®