ONALASKA, Wisconsin (WXOW)—If you use the Internet, you have a digital footprint. Whether you are shopping, searching, listening to music or posting to a social media account, you are leaving traces of your activities online, and it is important to protect your identity from thieves and scammers.
In order to help Wisconsin consumers learn about ways to tighten the security around their digital activities, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) is celebrating Data Privacy Day on January 28th.
"Data Privacy Day serves as an opportunity to get consumers thinking about how they use the Internet, what kind of details they are sharing online and the steps they are taking to protect their personal information," said Sandy Chalmers, Division Administrator for Trade and Consumer Protection.
With identity theft on the rise both nationwide and in Wisconsin, Data Privacy Day is a timely reminder of the threats that exist online.
"It costs the average identity theft victim twelve hours and more than $300 to resolve fraud," said Chalmers. "Wisconsin consumers could potentially save themselves significant time and money if they use even a couple of minutes on Data Privacy Day to educate themselves on identity theft and take steps to strengthen the security around their online information."
Ryan Wessel said you can begin protecting yourself by using complex passwords that are a mix of letters, numbers and ten characters long.
He said don't store your passwords in a word document on your computer because it's easy for hackers to access. Instead, he said use a password encrypter like Password Safe or SplashID.
Update the operating system and anti-virus software on your devices to target recent viruses and patch any holes that hackers can use to access your system.
"What we recommend is Microsoft Security Essentials," Wessel said. "Its actually wrote by Microsoft so essentially is somebody that's writing your virus protection that is writing your software so I think they're going to be a little better at protecting your stuff and its free."
Wessel also said to make sure your computer's operating system is updated.
He said as Windows or Mac becomes aware of security holes they'll fix them and send out an update.
To check that your PC is updated visit update.microsoft.com. To check for updates on your Mac go to the Apple menu, click system preferences, then view and click software update.
Only enter personal details and banking information in sites that start with "https" (the "s" means secure). Look for the lock graphic next to the web address.
Every year, you can receive one free copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus by visiting www.annualcreditreport.com. Review your reports for any unauthorized lines of credit.
Regularly review your bank and credit card statements for unauthorized charges or withdrawals.
Adjust the privacy settings for your social media accounts to block your content from strangers.
Review the privacy policies for web sites and mobile applications. Make sure that you are comfortable with the policies before you enter any personal information into the web sites or programs.