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by Brenda Spezze, Vice President of E-Banking at High Country Bank

Nearly three decades after the internet was introduced, the web continues to transform the lives of users, revolutionizing the way consumers shop, pay bills and transfer money. While these advancements make common tasks hassle-free, consumers are urged to take extra precautions to navigate the web safely and avoid online crime.

“Banks are constantly innovating to make it easier for customers to manage their money online,” said Brenda Spezze, vice president of E-Banking at High Country Bank. “At the same time, we’re always looking for ways to help customers combat cyber threats.”

In recognition of last month’s National Consumer Protection Week, High Country Bank offers these tips to help safeguard personal information and navigate the web safely.

Keep your computers and mobile devices up to date. Installing the latest security software, web browser and operating system are the best defenses against viruses, malware and other online threats. Turn on automatic updates so you receive the newest fixes as they become available.

Set strong passwords. A strong password has at least eight characters (more is better) and includes a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and special characters. Don’t use words that can be found in the dictionary.

Watch out for phishing scams. Phishing scams use fraudulent emails and websites to trick users into disclosing private account or login information. Never click on links or open any attachments or pop-up screens from unfamiliar sources.

Forward phishing emails to the Federal Trade Commission at – and to the company, bank or organization impersonated in the email.

Keep personal information personal. Hackers can use social media profiles to figure out your passwords and answer those security questions in the password reset tools. Lock down your privacy settings and avoid posting things like birthdays, addresses, mother’s maiden name, etc. Be wary of requests to connect from people you do not know.

Secure your internet connection. Always protect your home wireless network with a password. Using public Wi-Fi is not recommended. Be cautious about what information you are sending online when on Wi-Fi. Consider using a Virtual Private Network app to secure and encrypt your communications when connecting to a public Wi-Fi network. (See the Federal Trade Commission’s tips for selecting a VPN app.)

Be careful in the cloud. Using the cloud makes it easier to store and share large amounts of files, but understand that it also opens other avenues for attack.

Shop safely. Before shopping online, make sure the website uses secure technology. When you are at the checkout screen, verify that the web address begins with https. Also, check to see if a tiny locked padlock symbol appears on the page.

Read the site’s privacy policies. Though long and complex, privacy policies tell you how the site protects the personal information it collects.

Report any suspected fraud to your bank immediately.