North Carolina Department of Justice
North Carolina Department of Justice
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Protect personal information, AG Cooper urges on Data Privacy Day

Release date: 1/28/2016

Businesses, government and consumers should follow data privacy measures, AG says

Raleigh: On Data Privacy Day, Attorney General Roy Cooper urged North Carolina consumers, businesses and government agencies to prioritize privacy and protect personal information.

“With so many more opportunities for us to share information, data privacy is more important than ever,” Cooper said. “Consumers should take proactive steps to guard their information and keep it from falling into the hands of criminals and scammers.”

To protect personal information, Cooper recommends that North Carolinians:

  • Be careful about what you share online. Avoid sharing information or images that you want to remain completely private, even if you’re using privacy settings. On social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, never post private information like your address or phone number. Be aware that hackers and criminals are capable of using personal information shared online to their advantage, like knowing when you’ll be away from home for a trip or using the information to pose as you. Finally, remember to talk to your kids about online safety.
  • Choose secure passwords. Passwords should be 10 to 12 characters long and should include a mix of letters, numbers and special characters. Don’t use common information or phrases, like your date of birth, street address number, names of family members, phone number or series of consecutive numbers. Avoid passwords that could be easily guessed from information you share on social media, such as kids’ and pets’ names. Keep passwords for all your online accounts, computer and cell phone private and don’t share them, particularly not over the phone, in text messages, or over email. For more password tips, visit the Federal Trade Commission website.
  • Keep your guard up against scams. Never respond to calls, emails, texts or social media posts that ask you to share your Social Security Number or bank account information. Remember that legitimate businesses and government entities won’t ask you for this information online. Avoid clicking through links that arrive in suspicious, unexpected emails and social media messages. Before sharing personal information online with a trusted business, make sure the website is secure by looking for a lock icon and “https” in the web address.
  • Use privacy settings, but don’t rely on them. Criminals take advantage of personal information shared on social networking sites to help them plan scams and target victims. On social networking sites like Facebook and Instagram, privacy settings are available to help protect your information. But remember to share images and personal information cautiously online, because your online privacy could still be compromised.
  • Find a Wi-Fi hotspot? Proceed with caution. Free, public Wireless Internet service is common and convenient. But remember that connecting your smartphone, laptop, or tablet to unprotected Wi-Fi can put your information at risk. Scammers can use public Wi-Fi to steal your passwords and account numbers to commit identity theft and credit card fraud. For maximum security, choose Wi-Fi hotspots that use Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) and have privacy statements on their login websites, and ask to make sure you connect to the correct Wi-F network instead of falling for a copycat. Limit activity on public Wi-Fi to surfing only, not checking your bank account or making purchases.
  • If your information is compromised, take action immediately. Major data breaches involving Anthem Inc. and the U.S. Office of Personnel Management have recently compromised the information of thousands of North Carolinians. If you are notified that you may have been affected by a breach, take steps to protect your identity as soon as possible. Immediately change passwords and monitor your credit report and accounts for unusual activity. Also consider a security freeze, which prevents any new lines of credit from being opened in your name. Under a new law North Carolina parents can now get security freezes for children as well.

“Businesses and government must do a better job protecting information that consumers share with them, but consumers can’t afford to wait for that to happen,” Cooper said. “Recent data breaches serve as a reminder that we must take all steps possible to keep our personal information secure.”

Data Privacy Day is a national effort led by the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) on January 28 each year. The event educates consumers on ways privacy measures can help them stay safe online and works to show businesses, non-profit organizations and government entities that data privacy is an important business practice. Cooper’s office is participating in this year’s Data Privacy Day as a Privacy Champion organization.

For more information, see our tips on Internet privacy and avoiding identity theft online.

Contact:  Noelle Talley

Phone:     919/716-6413